Will Bannon’s Departure Change the Immigration Landscape?

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By Laura D. Francis

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s departure could signal at least some shifts in the administration’s immigration policy.

There won’t be any changes “at the ground level” in terms of actions by the Homeland Security and Justice departments, Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 18. But there could be changes in policies that need to be made “at the White House level,” he said.

And that could mean a more definite approach to how the Trump administration deals with the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, said Krikorian, whose organization supports lower immigration levels.

DACA, which just saw its fifth anniversary, provides deportation protection and work permits to nearly 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

It seems like Trump is “letting Texas dictate terms here,” Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 18. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) in June threatened to sue the administration over DACA if it’s not ended by Sept. 5.

Bannon and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, were in a “tug of war during the transition about what to do about DACA,” Krikorian said. “Kushner’s the reason DACA hasn’t been discontinued” despite Trump’s campaign promise to end the program on his first day in office, he said.

Now that Bannon’s gone, Kushner is likely to “move policy to the left” on immigration policy items like DACA, he said.

A representative for the White House didn’t respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

Deportation Policy Not Changing

Tramonte doesn’t foresee an immigration policy shift in the near future.

“It’s just become clear to us” that the president has selected people to “completely reorient our deportation policy to go after the easiest targets,” she said. Those people include White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan, she said.

“Their animus is towards immigrants,” whether legal or illegal, Tramonte said. They develop policies that favor immigrants from European countries to the detriment of Latin American and African immigrants, she said.

Tramonte pointed to the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act ( S. 1720), recently backed by the White House. It would reduce legal immigration and substitute a points system for the employment-based visa system. She also mentioned the president’s travel ban, which would block the entry of immigrants from six majority-Muslim countries as well as refugees from Syria.

“It wasn’t just Steve Bannon who was pushing these,” Tramonte said.

“Different people leave” the White House and “nothing changes,” she said. “The president is still the president.”

“President Trump has demonstrated his commitment to deliver on his immigration reform promises and continues to have a deep bench of experienced policy experts who will advance that agenda,” Dave Ray, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA Aug. 18. “The overwhelming public support for Trump’s immigration policies and urgency to put those in place transcend any one person in the White House,” said Ray, whose organization advocates for lower immigration levels.

“Moreover, the ball is now in Congress’s court to move the Trump agenda forward,” he said.

Effect on Government Funding Deal?

But Congress’ upcoming debate over a funding measure for the federal government could be an area where Bannon’s absence is felt, Krikorian said.

“DACA’s their most important bargaining chip,” he said. And legal status for DACA recipients could get traded for “some trivial thing” like billions of dollars in funding for a border wall, which “I’m not even sure we need,” he said.

Kushner may “maneuver” Trump into trading DACA for border wall funding, which would be “one of the worst deals in American history,” Krikorian said.

Rather, that kind of concession would have to be paired with something that would ameliorate the effects, Krikorian said. Those effects include additional, future illegal immigration and the potential that legalized immigrants will turn around and petition for legal status for their undocumented parents, he said.

A better deal would be enactment of DACA in exchange for making the E-Verify electronic employment verification system mandatory, as well as other enforcement measures like the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act ( H.R. 2431), Krikorian said. Adding the RAISE Act also would be a good idea, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at lfrancis@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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