- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2018

President Trump’s immigration makeover turned 1 year old on Thursday — the anniversary of his first two major executive orders — and he has notched a decidedly mixed record.

The president made huge strides over the last 12 months on reversing the philosophy of the Obama years, ending strict limits that had put most illegal immigrants out of bounds for deportation. He has pressured foreign countries into cooperations, signed up more counties and cities to help in deportations and established an office to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants.

But progress has stalled on enforcement, with catch-and-release of illegal immigrants continuing, the asylum system still being gamed and sanctuary cities proliferating in the interior. A study released Thursday found more than 400 counties enacted more lenient sanctuary policies last year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s border wall, 10,000 more deportation officers, 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and an influx of detention beds for deportees are all works in progress at the one-year mark, awaiting money.

“A lot of stuff in there was so dependent on Congress appropriating resources to do it,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “He certainly made a start with resources available, but there’s a lot more to do there that’s going to require Congress to act.”



The two executive orders hit like a freight train, coming just five days after the inauguration. They were Mr. Trump’s first major orders, following through on one of his biggest campaign themes and attempting to reverse years of Obama administration policy, when the government looked the other way on most illegal immigrants.

In one order, the new president directed immigration agents to expand the limits on who should be deported and begin fining companies that employ illegal workers, pleaded for better cooperation between localities and federal agencies, prescribed financial punishments for sanctuary cities, demanded that foreign countries take back their own deportees, and called for the creation of an office to represent victims of illegal immigrant crimes.

The border order, meanwhile, envisioned “a physical wall along the southern border,” more detention beds to hold new arrivals, an end to the catch-and-release policy for many illegal immigrants, improved cooperation between national parks and border agents, more prosecutions of border offenses, and changes to prevent people from filing bogus asylum claims in order to earn a foothold in the U.S.

Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the orders forced a rethink within the Department of Homeland Security.

“This is a big ocean liner that had to be turned around. We’re talking decades of neglect at these agencies. Outside of a two-year period at the end of the Bush administration, immigration laws weren’t being enforced — and now they are,” she said.

She said, however, it may take a while for Mr. Trump’s changes to make a real dent in the numbers.

Illegal crossings into the U.S. fell dramatically in Mr. Trump’s first months but have since returned to where they were at the end of the Obama administration.

Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) and families have proved particularly intractable, with federal courts blocking efforts to detain and quickly deport them. That has only enticed more people to make the trip, Ms. Vaughan said.

“This is probably the most urgent problem that they still need to resolve. They just haven’t been able to figure out how to get around the settlement agreement and the court orders and the restrictions on family detention that will allow them to put a stop to this,” she said. “Essentially the same policy as the Obama administration had — they’ve had to maintain.”

Homeland Security can point to some distinct progress:

The Voice Office, established to help victims of illegal immigrant crimes, has made assistance referrals for more than 120 victims, the department said.

Foreign countries have been persuaded to cooperate in taking back their people, with the number of “recalcitrant” countries dropping from 23 in 2016 to just nine as of late last year. Countries on the watch list, deemed worrisome but not yet recalcitrant, also dropped 25 percent.

The number of localities signed up for the 287(g) program, which trains local police and sheriffs to begin the deportation process in prisons and jails, went from 32 in 2016 to 60 now. Another 23 applications are awaiting final approval.

In its own one-year review, Homeland Security said it had laid the groundwork for the border wall and other policy changes but added that Congress will need to do much of the hard work.

Indeed, many of the failures from the president’s two executive orders are areas where Capitol Hill has been slow to act. It will take changes to the law to speed up deportations of UAC and families snared at the border, and to end abuse of the asylum system.

Mr. Trump’s calls for more Border Patrol agents, deportation officers and fencing will also require congressional action.

The president is expected to send Congress a framework next week asking for action on all those fronts, in exchange for supporting a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrant Dreamers.

Some of the administration’s shortfalls, though, lie with the administration.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tried to put together a name-and-shame list of jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate in holding illegal immigrants for pickup, but the list was riddled with errors and quickly scrapped. It’s unclear whether it will be restarted.

Homeland Security also has fallen short on a one-year goal set by Mr. Trump to issue guidance urging illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them to pay fines in places where the law allows it.

“DHS is in the process of finalizing further guidance on civil fines and penalties to deter illegal immigration and enforce immigration laws,” the department says.

Ms. Brown said the stumbles with the name-and-shame list were symptoms of the roughly drawn orders.

“These are some of the earlier executive orders that were put out by this administration, I think before they had a whole lot of people who could talk through some of this with them to say what was doable and what was not,” she said.

She added that the president has bumped up against the limits of executive action.

“The mixed outcome on this is representative of the limitations of trying to effect major changes in the immigration system by the executive branch only,” she said. “Part of it’s been caught up in the courts, part if it requires congressional action.”

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