More Actions, More Time Needed

On January 28, 2017 POTUS 45 signed three executive actions, one of them highly controversial receiving significant media coverage. More have been signed since then.

In an effort to pace myself, I am going to review them one at a time and not worry about getting my reactions developed and posted here as soon after the actions are available for review as I was doing previously.

I have found reviewing even large numbers of non-controversial, routine, or positive actions was not as mentally taxing as doing the difficult, controversial ones. I’m going to take the liberty of conserving some mental energy, and being more methodical and deliberate in hopes of producing better reviews and comments.

As it turns out, at least for now, the news media are reporting virtually every executive action anyway. In fact, I may find myself not only reviewing and commenting on the executive actions themselves, but also doing some vetting of news reports of them. Not surprisingly, at least to me, some of those reports are not very accurate – even the ones that do not appear to be intentionally misleading or simply catering to their base of readers/viewers.

Finally, because I am a lone blogger editing my own work, I need to take time away from early drafts to catch typos, awkward phrasing, etc. Any readers here who find an item that should be corrected will help improve this blog by leaving a comment to that effect. I thank you in advance.

 

Executive Order: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States

Here we go again. As of Saturday (January 28) and well into Sunday (I didn’t check late Sunday), the White House website had not yet posted the executive order that had dominated the weekend news sparking wide-spread protests. Interestingly, by Sunday other executive actions taken after the infamous order of January 27, 2017 had been posted on the White House website, but for some reason the most controversial one had not. Monday, I saw it was finally there. Whoever is running that site has no sense of timeliness for communicating with the average citizen interested in seeing the full text unfiltered by the news media. I’m beginning to wonder if the site staff shut down operation early Friday afternoons for the weekend. I’ll have to monitor that over the next few weeks. If this White House is serious about circumventing the “mainstream media”, it should post all new items before, or at the very least same time, as they are released to the news media.

Fortunately, this time the New York Times published the full text the day of the order so it has been available for review. Beginning last Friday, I started review and drafting my thoughts about it, but it was not an easy one to read and more research was necessary to confirm what news reports were saying about its content. The wildness of the weekend events kept unfolding and I tried to make revisions of my thoughts as I learned more, but ultimately decided to just shut down for a few days.  So, I am finally now finishing this to get something posted and move on to other items.

In general, I see this executive order as the beginning of implementation of “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals seeking visas and immigrant or refugee status. It is a lengthy order that defies simple summary, so I am not even going to try to do that. Instead I will call attention to just a few, but certainly not all, of the most alarming parts.

It begins with what I consider to be typically “Bannon-esque” language to attempt to justify the action. It fails to justify anything, in my opinion.

On first reading, several thoughts crossed my mind. One, this order gives too much power to the collective group of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence. By that I mean the order stipulating in several different sections the consensus (I read it as unanimity) of the three in carrying out some decisions and some exceptions to enforcement of this order. The practical application of this means anyone they deem is a ‘friend’ who otherwise would not qualify under this order to be admitted to this country, will in fact be admitted. By the same token, any person deemed not to receive an exemption or special treatment by any of the three officers stated can deny entry to that person. That is way too much power for one individual to hold in this volatile political world environment.

Two, this order effectively expands definition of acts that can lead to deportation. It is not only based on conviction of a crime, but also simply being charged with a crime. Beyond that, in the so called ‘interest of transparency’, several reports are to be published that include the numbers of foreign nationals who have been “…radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States…” How exactly such activities are going to be discovered and defined as such is not included in this executive order. Illegal surveillance may well become rampant.

Three, the provision requiring a review and potential change of visa reciprocity with other nations can only be seen as petty vindictiveness having nothing to do with the individual’s or our country’s best interest in visa approval decisions.

Four, there is reference to religious persecution as a basis for granting immigrant status, but only “…provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” This apparently is why some of the news reports I have seen or heard say only Christians will be admitted or calling this order a “Muslim ban”. The official language of the order does not mention any specific religion, but when the nations that fall under its provisions are majority Muslim, it is clear what the intent is. However, the language in this order reveals a lack of understanding, or perhaps even awareness, of the intra-Muslim conflicts that lead to religious persecution in several countries. I doubt the the vague language will consider Shia Muslims coming from a majority Sunni nation, or vice versa, as members of a minority religion. The many nuances of the Muslim world beyond Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Sufi, Wahabi, etc. are not likely recognized by the developers and signatory of this executive order, but regardless, this order does not make clear that sects would constitute minority religion status. If the president or his people would clarify this as the case, that clarification would go a long ways to dispelling the notion this is a “Muslin ban”.

Since first reading the order, one issue that has come to better light is what happens to Green Card holders. By law, they are legal residents of the United States with more or less permanent status in that regard. This is neither the time nor post to go into the detailed nuances of the Green Card law, so my comments will be limited to the fact that the order does allow exceptions to be made to the general order (as noted above) and the administration has attempted to clarify that Green Card holders will be treated as a class with less detailed vetting. Apparently there was disagreement as to how the order should be interpreted by the staff. While Homeland Security said Green Card holders were exempt from the order by virtue of that status alone, presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s view that they were not exempt and would need to be vetted won out. Although some news reports are saying there has been a change in policy due to the reaction in the public, I do not believe that is the case. It remains to be seen how the various law suits about this order in general and this issue in particular will play out.

One curious provision – to immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program – seems out of place in such a punitive executive order. This program is a means for developing future members of the State Department’s foreign service as diplomats, etc. It is a kind of internship/training program. As I recall, one of the actions of President Obama that I reviewed last year included some mention of expediting the hiring of fellows from this and other programs. My early conclusion on why this provision is placed in this order comes from the concurrent news about all the State Department senior staff being let go. This appears to be an attempt to rush replacements for the needed staff in embassies and other venues of action by the State Department. This provision seems to be getting lost in the controversy over other items, because I have seen nothing about this in news reports

There are so many progress and follow-up reports required in this order by various departments and on various timetables, that I cannot help but wonder if this president also expects each of those reports to be one page in length. His well documented short attention span could hardly handle anything more than that, it seems.

Much more could be said about this insideous attempt at appeasing a small minority of voters by “delivering on a campaign promise”, but the news media have covered and continue to cover this so extensively, that I will refrain from writing more here and now.

Apparent Executive Order reportedly signed January 27, 2017

President Trump Releases National School Choice Week Proclamation

Little comment is necessary for this proclamation. Apparently it was issued yesterday, but posted on the White House website today. The designated week is January 22-28, 2017.

It is a little odd to proclaim a week so late in that week instead of in advance. Enough said.

Proclamation issued January 25, 2017 and posted January 26, 2017.

Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

As with the other executive order signed January 25, 2017, this one deals with illegal immigration. In this case it focuses exclusively on the southern border of the United States.

The whole order is fundamentally an authorization to build a wall (defined as: “…a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier.”) on the southern border and to manage the elements that go with that. It also authorizes building of detention facilities near the southern border, and item I have not seen in new reports about this order.

Significant components include assignment of asylum officers to handle review of detainees, immigration judges to review asylum requests, and hiring of 5,000 additional border patrol agents.

Nothing in this order is surprising, because it was such a high profile issue in the campaign. Unlike the other order issued on this date, I do not see any obvious abuse of authority or otherwise alarming elements. That does not mean there are none, nor does it mean I believe this action is necessary or prudent use of Federal funds.

I find it particularly interesting that all the references to the funding for compliance with this order are to appropriations by Congress. Absolutely nothing is said about reimbursement from Mexico.

Executive order signed and posted January 25, 2017

 

Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

Stated in the guise of public safety, this is in fact an executive order aimed at immigration law enforcement, especially expediting deportation of illegal aliens. It appears to be an attempt to push enforcement of immigration law beyond any normal interpretation, limited only by the phrase “..to the fullest extent of the law..” (meaning limits by other laws, as well as immigration laws), which may well be the only way to keep this order from being an ominous, fear-producing unilateral act.

For example, along with various cited sections of immigration law that  identify those who should be deported, the following are listed as additional targets for deportation.

…removable aliens who:

(a)  Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b)  Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;

(c)  Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d)  Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

(e)  Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(f)  Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or

(g)  In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

I find most of those to be far beyond what would normally be considered acceptable law. For example, to treat as guilty those who are merely charged, or more ominously by some zealous law enforcement official to be determined to have committed acts that could be chargeable criminal offense, whether or not a prosecutor has determined a reasonable amount of evidence to prosecute, is in my view significant overreach of law enforcement. This executive order would give individual immigration officers the power determine if an individual poses a risk without review by anyone – a recipe for disaster and rampant abuse.

The attempt to revoke Federal funding for so called “sanctuaries” is also very likely unconstitutional and would almost certainly be tested the first time this order is invoked to do that.

There is one interesting provision I had not seen reported in various news accounts of this action. It includes this: “…to take all appropriate action to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers…”. The focus intended appears to be enforcement rather than processing of status.

Although there are so many parts of this that are alarming, from a rule of law and legal rights point of view, I will cite just one more.

Sec. 14.  Privacy Act.  Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.

It is difficult to believe many Americans would find elimination of rights of privacy as being acceptable for anyone.

This executive order is the first one I have seen that is, in my view, clearly an abuse of the authority of the office. Our best hope is that those charged with implementation are extremely careful to follow all existing law to effectively nullify many of the provisions here and not use this order as license to attempt to overreach those laws until caught and called to account for it.

Signed and posted January 25, 2017

Actions Dated January 24, 2017

Four memoranda and one executive order were signed and posted. Most have been thoroughly covered in news reports, so my comments will be limited. The overall impact is to significantly shift policy with regard to the environment.

  • Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

Basically reversing the most recent action by the Army Corps of Engineers that initiated an environment review before deciding on approval of the pipeline. It’s result is to expedite the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

  • Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline

This memorandum invites the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline company to re-submit a request to the Secretary of State reversing a decision by the Obama administration.

  • Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects

Establishes a procedure for designation of high priority projects (within 30 days of a request) and when so designated to expedite all reviews, permits, etc.

  • Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of American Pipelines

The gist is in the following quote:

“…use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law”

  • Presidential Memorandum Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing

“This memorandum directs executive departments and agencies (agencies) to support the expansion of manufacturing in the United States through expedited reviews of and approvals for proposals to construct or expand manufacturing facilities and through reductions in regulatory burdens affecting domestic manufacturing.”

 

 

More News Reports of Actions

Update: Since I first posted this just a few minutes ago, the White House Press Office has now posted all the executive actions. Needless to say, I am pleased. That makes some of what I said below obsolete.

Today, January 24, 2017, there are numerous news reports of more executive actions taken by POTUS 45. I have to say I am encouraged by the attention the news media are giving to them. One of my concerns when I started this blog was the fact that, generally speaking, executive orders and other presidential actions were not widely covered routinely.

We are in the very early days of this administration, so at some point, some other “shiny object” may well divert the attention of the media, and future actions will again go unreported, but for now the coverage is better than I expected.

It is still too early to conclude the White House Press Office will not be posting these actions in a timely fashion to the White House Website, as was done by the Obama staff, but the fact the site has not changed at all since the first day is not a good sign.

As I said in a post yesterday, finding full texts before they are published in the Federal Register is very difficult without the White House site postings. So, I have decided to save myself the time and trouble of attempting to find full texts in media reports, and just wait for them to appear in the Federal Register. That will mean I will be less timely in my reviews, but a delay of a few days should not create any significant problems.