At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is Democrats’ worst night­mare

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By­ron York Colum­nist By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Washington Ex­am­iner.

Pres­i­dent-elect Trump’s tran­si­tion team knew that nom­i­nat­ing Jeff Ses­sions for At­tor­ney Gen­eral would set off con­tro­versy. Democrats and their al­lies in the press have at key times in the past called Ses­sions a racist — they’re now us­ing the Alabama sen­a­tor’s full name, Jef­fer­son Beau­re­gard Ses­sions III, to heighten the Old South ef­fect — and now, as they op­pose Trump at nearly ev­ery turn, they’ve turned to race again.

Here’s why the ef­fort to stop Ses­sions is likely to in­ten­sify as his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings near. Ses­sions is the Se­nate’s high­est­pro­file, most de­ter­mined, and most knowl­edge­able op­po­nent of com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form. Democrats are par­tic­u­larly anx­ious about im­mi­gra­tion be­cause of the un­usu­ally ten­u­ous na­ture of Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies on the is­sue. Those poli­cies can be un­done uni­lat­er­ally, by the new pres­i­dent in some cases, and by the at­tor­ney gen­eral and head of home­land se­cu­rity in other cases. There’s no need for con­gres­sional ac­tion — and no way for House or Se­nate Democrats to slow or stop it.

There are ex­ten­sive, and in some cases, strict im­mi­gra­tion laws on the books, passed by bi­par­ti­san ma­jori­ties of Congress. Obama wanted Congress to change those laws. Congress de­clined. So Obama stopped en­forc­ing pro­vi­sions of the law that he did not like. A new ad­min­is­tra­tion could sim­ply re­sume en­force­ment of the law — a move that by it­self would bring a huge change to im­mi­gra­tion prac­tices in the United States. No con­gres­sional ap­proval needed.

There are laws pro­vid­ing for the de­por­ta­tion of peo­ple who en­tered the U.S. il­le­gally. Laws pro­vid­ing for the de­por­ta­tion of peo­ple who en­tered the U.S. il­le­gally and later com­mit­ted crimes. Laws for en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion com­pli­ance at the work­site. Laws for im­mi­grants who have il­le­gally over­stayed their visas for com­ing to the United States. Laws re­quir­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments to com­ply with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law. And more.

Many of those laws have been loos­ened or, in some cases, com­pletely ig­nored by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. A Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would not need to ask Congress to pass any new laws to deal with il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. If there was a pres­i­den­tial or­der in­volved in Obama’s non-en­force­ment, Trump could undo it, and if there were Jus­tice De­part­ment di­rec­tives in­volved, Ses­sions could undo them, and if there are De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity di­rec­tives in­volved, the still-to-benom­i­nated sec­re­tary could undo them.

“It will be pos­si­ble for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws by us­ing what is now on the books,” notes Jes­sica Vaughan, di­rec­tor of pol­icy stud­ies at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which ad­vo­cates re­duc­ing im­mi­gra­tion into the U.S.

One of the im­me­di­ate changes would be to get rid of Obama’s Pri­or­ity En­force­ment Pro­gram, in­sti­tuted in 2014. Known as PEP, the pro­gram made it al­most im­pos­si­ble for Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment to even be­gin de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings un­til an il­le­gal im­mi­grant has been con­victed of an ag­gra­vated felony or mul­ti­ple mis­de­meanors. Obama’s pol­icy “forced lo­cal ICE of­fices to re­lease of thou­sands of de­portable crim­i­nals,” Vaughan has noted, “in­clud­ing Eswin Me­jia, an il­le­gal alien with prior ar­rests who killed 21-year old Sarah Root in Omaha, Neb., while dra­grac­ing drunk in Jan­uary of this year. Like many of the 86,000 con­victed crim­i­nals re­leased by ICE since 2013, Me­jia is now a fugi­tive but con­sid­ered a ‘non­crim­i­nal,’ be­cause he has yet to be tried and con­victed for Root’s death.”

Repub­li­cans, with a nar­row ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, should be able con­firm their col­league, es­pe­cially since soon-to-be-for­mer Sen. Harry Reid nuked the mi­nor­ity’s abil­ity to fil­i­buster ex­ec­u­tive branch nom­i­na­tions. But be­fore that hap­pens, look for the noise and the anger over the Ses­sions nom­i­na­tion to in­crease. There’s too much at stake for Democrats to go along.

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