White House Contemplates Executive Action Using Trump-era Immigration Law

White House is considering using a section in federal immigration law
White House is considering using a section in federal immigration law. Credit | istock

United States – Three people familiar with the deliberations said that the White House is considering using a section in federal immigration law that ex-President Donald Trump often utilized to carry out a comprehensive sweep at the southern border.

Political Pressures on Biden

The administration, which was blocked by Republican lawmakers who rejected a compromised border bill earlier this month, has been looking into possible actions that President Joe Biden could take on his own without the support of Congress, several officials and others familiar with the matter said. However, the plans are far from being finalized, and how the administration will write any such executive orders is uncertain in a way that would hold up to the likely legal challenges. The officials and others who have knowledge of the issue talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss private White House talks underway.

The fact that the Biden team looked into such avenues magnifies the pressure the president comes under this election year on immigration and the border, which have been the main weak points of his presidency. The White House is currently striking the congressional Republicans for their refusal to pass the border legislation that they demanded. Still, they are also aware of the political risks of high migration numbers posed to the president, and they are seeking ways he could solve this problem alone.

Congressional Response and Criticism

White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández stressed that “no executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide and that Republicans rejected.”

“The administration spent months negotiating in good faith to deliver the toughest and fairest bipartisan border security bill in decades because we need Congress to make significant policy reforms and to provide additional funding to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system,” he said. “Congressional Republicans chose to put partisan politics ahead of our national security, rejected what border agents have said they need, and then gave themselves a two-week vacation.”

In January, there were half as many arrests compared to record highs at the end of December, which was far below the third-lowest month during President Biden’s tenure. Authorities are concerned that the number of infections could rise again in the long run, particularly before the presidential elections in November.

Immigration and Nationality Act

The branch of the executive authority the administration has been examining centers around section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, where the president is given the power to prevent certain immigrants from entering the United States if this act would harm the U.S. national interest.

Now, however, people familiar with the ongoing discussions say that how precisely Biden would deploy such broad executive orders to address the existing immigration issues remains to be seen. Suffice it to say that there could be a variety of ways to apply these executive orders. Take into account the following: the ban will be enforced when the number of crossings edges a certain amount. That reflects a similar provision in the Senate border deal that would have triggered expulsions of those found to be in violation of the immigration laws should 5,000 or more illegal crossings occur in a day for a period of five days.

Apart from Senator Cassidy, who has already made a request to Biden with mine as well to apply the same 212(f) authority, they have also been backed up by House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. Nonetheless, a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws, which the new president also introduced on his first day in office — it is still on the White House agenda — includes provisions that would diminish a president’s power to bar immigrants on behalf of the executive authority.