WASHINGTON: The courts may have halted his travel ban but that hasn’t caused President Donald Trump to shy away from planning new action on immigration in the name of keeping Americans safe.
As thousands of Mexicans protested against Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric and vow to make the country pay for his “big, beautiful border wall,” the White House confirmed the president’s plans to weigh a new executive order to speed up deportations of illegal immigrants.
His ban now frozen, Trump is “considering and pursuing all options” including a new executive order on the matter, his aide Stephen Miller told Fox News Sunday.
The issue is sure to be at the top of the agenda when Trump meets Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has made it clear in the wake of Trump’s ban that America’s northern neighbor welcomes with open arms “those fleeing persecution, terror and war.”
While Trump’s restrictions on refugees and other travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries played out in the courts, a separate executive order prioritizing the deportation of undocumented migrants paved the way for the arrest of hundreds of people, many of them Latinos, this week.
“As a result of the president’s order, greatly expanded and more vigorous immigration enforcement activities are taking place,” Miller said of the deportation decree.
Earlier, Trump tweeted: “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” Trump tweeted after raids on undocumented migrants this week.
Over the past week, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency rounded up undocumented individuals living in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities in what it called “routine” operations.
But Miller indicated Sunday that the raids, which follow Trump’s January 25 executive order prioritizing deportation of undocumented individuals convicted of or “charged with any criminal offense,” including misdemeanors, were made more robust under the decree.
“It is true that Operation Cross Check is something that happens every year. But this year we have taken new and greater steps to remove criminal aliens from our communities,” Miller said.
The large-scale raids began in 2011 under former president Barack Obama.
Many Democrats have called on the government to act in moderation, fearful that people without a criminal record will find themselves swept up and in the detentions.
The case of a mother in Phoenix, Arizona who was expelled to Mexico on Thursday crystallized such worries, even among some Republicans.
“There is a lot of worry here in Arizona by those who… are illegally here but they have not committed aggravated felonies,” said Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, adding that the only hope for permanent change lies in major Congressional reform.
‘New and additional actions’
Miller said the next step on Trump’s travel ban would be either filing an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, defending the merits of the order in lower courts or issuing a new one.
The order that Trump issued abruptly in late January aimed to halt resettlement of all refugees for 120 days and that of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
It also barred for 90 days the entry of nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Miller insisted the president has the power to keep some people from entering the United States.
“We are contemplating new and additional actions to ensure that immigration is not a vehicle for admitting people into our country that are hostile to its nation and its values,” Miller said.
The ban was supposed to be in place while the government comes up with a new system of so-called “extreme vetting” of people seeking entry visas.
This could include checks on their social media accounts, according to John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security.
But a federal judge in Seattle issued a stay against the order on February 3. A three-judge appeals panel in San Francisco then voted unanimously against reinstating Trump’s ban.
The idea of the White House issuing a modified immigration order that would survive scrutiny in the courts does not convince Democrats, who from the outset have charged that Trump’s decree is simply anti-Muslim and plays into the hands of extremists.
“It will be used as a recruitment for terrorist organizations. It will put Americans at greater risk travelling abroad,” said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.