By Christina Lee & Christian Jorgensen
Way back in November 2016, US President Donald Trump released a clear and enumerated list of goals to be achieved during his first 100 days in office. A number of these pertained to migration and asylum, putting down onto paper concrete promises that backed up the immigration-heavy rhetoric of his campaign.
Now officially 100 days in to Trump’s presidency, it’s clear that this list was more than mere campaign promises: quite a few of them have been attempted by the Trump administration, in exactly the wording promised. (You can read the entire list here.) Below, we break down the progress the Trump administration has made toward keeping his promises on migration and refugee policy.
√× Cancel all funding to sanctuary cities
“Sanctuary cities” is a broad term used by both pro and anti-immigrant movements to describe cities who do not prioritize local enforcement of federal immigration laws. While what this actually entails can vary widely, there are a number of cities that identify as “sanctuary cities,” and unrelated and separate to this fact, many big cities receive millions of dollars in grants and funds from the federal government. President Trump campaigned on a promise to withhold federal funds from these “sanctuary cities” if his administration does not feel they fall in line with federal immigration policies. Given that “sanctuary city” is not an official designation but rather a vague declaration of intent that means different things to different cities, it was bound to be difficult to use this as a basis for withholding federal funding – but the President did try.
In January, Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States“, which calls on the government to “Ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.” The executive order contains other provisions, but this clearly matches his promise.
The executive order was followed up in April by a letter sent by the Justice Department to nine so-called sanctuary cities, in which the cities were told that they must demonstrate their compliance with federal immigration law or lose certain federal grants.
Two of letter recipients- San Francisco and Santa Clara- immediately took legal action to challenge the and prevent the law’s enforcement, seeking a declaratory judgement that the order violates the Tenth amendment of the Constitution, which retains all powers not delegated to the federal government by the constitution to the individual states. The argument here is essentially that the federal government has the prerogative to enforce federal immigration laws, but it may not force state governments to use their resources to do so. They also challenge the order for being vague and groundless (as we mentioned, lacking a standard) and for violating due process by removing funds without an opportunity to challenge. Strangely, the Trump administration’s argument seems to be that the order is actually toothless, given that it can only apply to a very small number of millions of dollars worth of federal grants.
Even so, the court agreed with the cities. In the order granting an injunction against enforcement of the order, the ninth district wrote:
The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds. Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that the total financial incentive not be coercive. Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.
These issues with the Executive Order are not limited to San Francisco and are likely to cause some major problems for Trump’s sanctuary city order generally. So the verdict on this promise must be: Tried and blocked.
√ “Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.”
This goal has only been partially achieved, but then, he did only say “begin.” Within Trump’s first 100 days ICE data shared with national news agencies has shown that 54,564 individuals have been deported as part of the “Operation Cross Check” roundup. However, it should be noted that only 30,664 are individuals with a criminal record. This number obviously does not include the many individuals currently going through deportation proceedings so it could be that the number is nearing 2 million.
So although ICE is apparently targeting non-criminal persons with irregular status for deportation and not only people with criminal records, this promise can be marked as: in progress.
×√“Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.”
This promise appears to predict the so-called “Muslim Ban,” which was passed but has been blocked by a federal appeals court in Hawaii. As we pointed out back in January, this was always going to be a very difficult promise to keep, given the multiple complications involved in enshrining religious discrimination into immigration law. The Trump administration ended up opting for a ban based on countries (which we predicted was more likely) and faced the problem we thought he might: by only banning a handful of majority-Muslim countries, his ban appeared arbitrary and not serving a compelling national security interest. If he had selected the top countries who had produced terrorism he would have included some non-Muslim majority countries (like Belgium) or important US allies like Saudi Arabia. By avoiding both these pitfalls, he reinforced the conclusion that the ban was necessary for political and discriminatory reasons, rather than for security the of American citizens. Thus it failed to pass muster and was blocked by several judges, with a renewed and reworded version being blocked indefinitely by the federal district court of Hawaii.
So the Muslim ban is another promise that was: tried and blocked.
×√ End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.
This act, as worded, has not been passed, but several of the provisions within have been discussed. As we wrote about in April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has introduced new procedures and guidance to make re-entry more difficult and to make enforcement of immigration rules stricter across the country. The main provision discussed being the wall along the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico that Trump touted as a top priority during the 2016 campaign. According to top Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
The main provision discussed above is, of course, the wall along the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico, which Trump touted as a top priority during the 2016 campaign. In January, Trump signed an executive order (“Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements“) calling for the “immediate construction” of a wall along the border with Mexico.
According to top Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) the wall will cost up to $15 billion dollars, however, Congress has currently not agreed on any budgetary amount that they are willing to spend, and Mexico is apparently unwilling to fulfill Trump’s promise that they would pay for it. In a televised address to the nation in January, Mexican President Nieto denied that Mexico would fund the proposed wall, saying “I’ve said time and again; Mexico won’t pay for any wall.”
In April President Trump, in order to keep his promise of reforming visa rules, signed an executive order, called the “Buy American, Hire American” law, that works to reform the HB1 visa program. An HB1 is a visa program that allows companies to hire workers from other countries with certain specialties usually focused in the areas of science and technology. Although the executive order has not currently changed the HB1 visa, what it has done is called for various federal agencies to start creating reforms to the HB1 process. President Trump believes this will lead to firms being forced to “Hire American” though of course it is yet to be seen if this will be the case.
So for this promise, Trump’s progress must be judged as: partially in progress, partially not attempted.
X Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military ….. establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.
This was from the outset a vague promise that didn’t have much hope of being passed. After all, it would require America to have a defined set of values outside of the Constitution, the main thrust of which is to allow for different values. We have not yet heard any news of new guidelines to customs and border control to quiz people on values and support of American people, so this must be considered: not attempted.
Conclusions: Despite attempts, Trump is far from his immigration goals, and getting further
A majority of people who voted for Trump (64%) identified immigration as the most important issue in the 2016 election and were likely gratified to see Trump making immigration reform a centerpiece of his campaign. As his success rate here shows, however, Trump may have overpromised on what he could achieve in a number of areas. It’s unclear whether Trump regarded these promises as achievable, but the presence in his cabinet of hardline anti-immigrant activists suggests that advisors may have pushed him to embrace unrealistic goals that were on their wishlist for years, but had little chance of success.
When it comes to immigration, the question for people supporting the President has to be: is it enough to try and fail or are the results what really matter?