- - Thursday, April 20, 2017


Over the past week, Americans have been treated to a string of pleasant surprises from the Trump administration related to the enforcement of our immigration laws.

The overarching message from the Trump Administration recently is that U.S. immigration laws are going to be treated the way they should be - as the laws on the books, rather than mere suggestions that can be ignored on a massive scale. Imagine! Immigration laws being enforced as laws. A pleasant surprise indeed.

Last week, while visiting Nogales, Arizona, Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined the administration’s plans to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. As Sessions made clear in his talk, the “catch-and-release” policies of previous administrations are over. The Trump enforcement plan includes prosecuting those who violate our immigration laws, and escalating the criminal charges for repeat offenders. Anyone who attempts to come to the United States unlawfully a second time will be charged with a felony.

The Trump immigration policy simultaneously addresses two problems. On the one hand, the enforcement policy has the important effect of restoring the rule of law to our immigration policy, and, on the other hand, this new era of enforcement has already had a dramatic effect on the number of people coming here illegally. Border patrol officers are reporting a drop of nearly 40% in illegal border crossings.

That Sessions is taking a hardline position on illegal immigration is hardly surprising. During his two decades in the United States Senate, Sessions made a name for himself as one of the most ardent opponents of illegal immigration and the “turn-a-blind-eye approach” to illegal immigration that has dominated in Washington.

What is surprising, however, is that it appears Sessions is not the only Trump official advocating for this new era in immigration law enforcement.  Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, speaking at George Washington University earlier this week, echoed Sessions’ statements. He addressed the erosion of respect for border patrol agents who are “often ridiculed and insulted by public officials and frequently convicted in the court of public opinion” for simply doing their jobs and enforcing current immigration laws.

Kelly continued: “If lawmakers do not like the laws that we enforce, that we are charged to enforce, that we are sworn to enforce, then they should have the courage and the skill to change those laws. Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

Kelly is right, not only about the need to enforce our immigration laws, but also about his broader point that Congress must do its job as the lawmaking body and actually go to the trouble of amending our immigration laws. Congress has the constitutional authority - and the responsibility, to put a finer point on it - to use the legislative process to amend laws, if it so wishes. Selective non-enforcement of entire sections of our legal code is simply not an option for a society that wishes to remain a rule-of-law nation.

Reagan administration officials routinely noted that “personnel is policy.” Their point was that a policy plan or idea is only as good as the implementers of said policy. Key staffers who impede or derail a good policy idea can be just as devastating to the desired outcome as a bad policy plan. Plain and simple: Personnel dictates policy outcomes.

President Trump has apparently internalized that lesson of the Reagan administration. Many of Trump’s key personnel decisions reflect his commitment to enforcing our existing immigration laws, and, in so doing, making good on his campaign pledge to get serious about border security.

Besides his specific campaign message of border security and cracking down on illegal immigration, Trump also campaigned on a broader promise to shake things up in Washington. As we approach the First 100 Days benchmark of the Trump presidency, that promise is already being fulfilled through the president’s - and his cabinet officials’ - willingness to adhere to the immigration laws as written, and an overall willingness to push back on congressional dereliction of duty. Those are bold moves in a town that gives mere lip service to the rule of law and the Constitution’s strict guidance for the separation of powers.

Trump’s commitment to make good on a campaign promise and his desire to enforce our nation’s laws are both noteworthy. But they are also noteworthy for their noteworthiness. It is a sad commentary on American politics that there is something inherently newsworthy about a politician who lives up to his campaign promises. And it is an even sadder commentary on the Washington culture that one of the most radical departures from the status quo is simply enforcing our nation’s immigration laws and upholding the rule of law.

President Trump should be congratulated and thanked for making news by taking the very “un-Washington” approach to both campaign promises and immigration law enforcement.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide