From: washingtonexaminer.com, by W. James Antle III, on Nov 18, 2016
If personnel is policy, this week in President-elect Trump’s transition has been better for immigration hawks than foreign-policy doves.
While the names being floated for key national security positions don’t represent the anticipated departure from George W. Bush’s foreign policy, Trump’s team does appear to be considering appointments that would break sharply with the last Republican president on immigration.
Trump’s team sent a signal Thursday that Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., was being considered for attorney general. “While nothing has been finalized and he is still talking with others as he forms his cabinet, the President-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama’s Attorney General and U.S. Attorney,” the statement said. “It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”
Sessions’ name has been brought up in relation to other Cabinet posts, including secretary of defense. But he is a leading proponent of border security, interior enforcement, and lower immigration levels to relieve wage pressure on struggling American workers. As attorney general, he would have more influence over immigration policy than in some of the other positions that have been discussed.
The Trump team is already layered with former Sessions staffers who share the senator’s immigration policy views, including Stephen Miller, the Alabama Republican’s former communications director, and Rick Dearborn, his former chief of staff. A third, Garrett Murch, became a senior editor at LifeZette, a website edited by Laura Ingraham, who has been supportive of Trump-Sessions immigration restrictionism and may be a candidate for White House press secretary.
“What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together,” Sessions wrote in an op-ed last year (emphasis in the original).
Over a year before Trump even declared his candidacy, Sessions introduced a detailed memo he titled the “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority,” which called for stepped up enforcement, an end to President Obama‘s “executive amnesty,” lower immigration numbers, reforming visa programs used by the tech industry and advice on messaging this as a populist pitch to working-class Americans of every race and background.
Large parts of this immigration primer later appeared in Trump’s own plan to “Prioritize the jobs, wages and security of the American people” and “Establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.”
But Trump didn’t quote much from the plan on the stump and declined to repeat some of its criticisms of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., during the Republican primary debates. He did, however, focus on the border wall, which he repeatedly said would be paid for by Mexico, and sometimes suggested he would deport a lot of illegal immigrants (mass deportations do not appear in either the Sessions handbook or Trump’s own formal immigration plan).
Trump nevertheless reaffirmed his support for a basically Sessions-like policy in his big August 31 immigration speech, delivered hours after returning from a meeting with the president of Mexico. “When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, and lower wages,” he said. “Immigration reform should mean something else entirely: it should mean improvement to our laws and policies to make lives better for American citizens.”
There have also been reports that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is working on the Trump transition, is being considered for a Cabinet position. Initial speculation centered on attorney general, but now rumors are swirling about the Department of Homeland Security — a portfolio with a huge immigration enforcement component.
Kobach is also a major figure in immigration control circles. He has written and championed tough laws curbing illegal immigration, such as Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. He also advocated Kansas’ law requiring voters show proof of citizenship. His handiwork puts into action an “attrition through enforcement” strategy that seeks to gradually reduce the illegal immigrant population in the United States without legalization or mass deportations.
In his work on the Trump transition team, Kobach has emphasized the construction of the border wall and “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees from countries with terrorist ties. To that end, Kobach has proposed reviving the Bush administration’s National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)
Supporters argue that NSEERS is a comprehensive entry-exit system that will allow us to know who is coming and going at time when jihadists and other terror networks are believed to taking advantage of open societies’ immigration systems to endanger their populations. Critics characterize the program as a “Muslim registry,” because the vetting often focuses on people coming from Muslim-majority countries.
“Certainly these are two guys who understand the impact of mass immigration and illegal immigration on the American people,” the Federation of American Immigration Reform’s Ira Mehlman said of Sessions and Kobach, calling them “welcome voices in the administration.”
Silicon Valley mogul Peter Thiel and Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., are also proponents of stricter immigration controls.
The most important — and polarizing — voice for immigration restraint may already have been named to Trump’s team. Breitbart has been one of the main media outlets opposing amnesty and promoting Sessions’ vision for immigration reform even before Trump officially got into the presidential race.
In May 2015, for example, Breitbart described Sessions as the key reason Wall Street and the donor class were “losing control of the Republican Party heading into 2016.” Stephen Bannon is Breitbart News’ executive chairman and the former CEO of the Trump campaign. He has been appointed a senior adviser to the incoming president, the chief strategist on the White House staff.
Bannon has been a top Democratic target ever since he signed up with Trump, but the reasons he has been so widely panned are also important to the immigration debate. The last time Washington seriously considered reducing immigration inflows it was at the recommendation of a commission chaired by Barbara Jordan, an African-American Democrat with impeccable civil-rights credentials who served as a congresswoman from Texas. By contrast, Bannon has been linked to the “alt-right,” a primarily Internet-based movement whose leading members have promoted racism and anti-Semitism.
“I have no evidence that Bannon’s a racist or that he’s an anti-Semite,” writes the conservative journalist Ben Shapiro. Shapiro broke with Bannon and Breitbart over the latter’s frequently over-the-top favorable coverage of Trump and the former’s embrace of what he described as politics more similar to the European right than modern American conservatism.
“We’re the platform of the alt-right,” liberal reporter Sarah Posner quoted Bannon as describing Breitbart during the Republican National Convention in July. The Breitbart writer who has done the most to popularize alt-right themes, Milo Yiannopoulos, has also tried to rebrand it as a reaction to extreme political correctness that would please a typical College Republican. But Yiannopoulos’ writings make plain he is at least aware of its white nationalist strain.
For his part, Bannon argued in 2014 that if a legitimate nationalist and populist alternative flourishes, the racism and anti-Semitism found in some corners of the right will be even further marginalized. African-American scholar Carol Swain made a similar case in her book The New White Nationalism in America, calling for immigration controls among other policies to diminish white nationalist influence.
Sessions and his team have carefully emphasized the deleterious impact of unchecked immigration on black and Hispanic American workers, trying to lower the temperature on the issue. Some immigration reformers fear headlines about Bannon will heat things up again.
Either way, the immigration policy Trump’s personnel moves point to will face resistance even among some Republicans in Congress. Bannon’s Breitbart has frequently targeted House Speaker as an amnesty supporter. The Washington Examiner spoke to a trio of GOP senators Wednesday who said they would back Trump on border security but weren’t clear what they’d do on his immigration initiatives beyond that.
“I’ll tell you what I won’t do,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “I will not vote for a bill that, quite frankly, treats a grandmother and a drug dealer the same.”
With only a narrow Republican majority in the Senate, these dissents could matter. While rules changes pushed by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have made it impossible for Democrats to filibuster Trump’s Cabinet picks, the GOP won’t have many votes to spare on the floor.
Sessions is likely safe because of his relationships with his Senate colleagues. But Kobach could face a tougher confirmation fight if nominated. Arizona’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are not only supporters of a very different vision of immigration reform; they remember the fierce backlash Kobach’s SB 1070 triggered in their home state. Hispanics feared the tough law would lead to racial profiling against them. Businesses threatened to boycott Arizona. The law’s defenders contend it cut unemployment and boosted wages, among other benefits for lawful residents of the state.
“Washington has completely ignored the American people’s role as the primary stakeholders in immigration policy,” said Mehlman.
With no nominations officially announced, the Trump team could still change course. But the early signs point to an immigration shake-up.
I’m pleased to see immigration remains at the top of the President-elect Trump’s list of important issues. So far, I’ve found more positive than negative in his activities, and that’s a welcome surprise. He’s floated a lot of names for various cabinet positions and personally, most would be acceptable to me. I should be quick to add that he hasn’t checked with me on any of them yet – I’m still waiting for him to ask for my input.
I’ve also been heartened by a lack of ridiculous tweets by the newly elected Trump. There have been a few released to the public, but they were mostly without any real venom – a departure from the pattern established during his campaign for the Republican candidacy. In short, especially since I was a staunch anti-Trump individual until the final vote against Hillary Clinton, I’ve been moderately pleased with Mr. Trump so far. He’s saying (mostly) the right things and considering (mostly) the right kind of candidates for his cabinet, so I really can’t complain.
Unlike Hillary supporters, I’ve accepted that Donald Trump is now (or soon will be) my president and I’m willing to give him a chance and so far, he’s been making some good moves.
I still want to see him stop the influx of illegals across our southern border, deport those with criminal records, cut off funding to “sanctuary cities,” and limit the importation of more potential terrorists from the Middle East. If he can establish the groundwork to do those actions quickly after his inauguration, I’ll reconsider my “never Trump” label and gladly convert to a “maybe Trump” person instead.