President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has requested various documents and information from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that, along with a statement of policies on his website and statements made by his Cabinet nominees, may provide hints of what immigration issues Mr. Trump may prioritize once he becomes President.
Document requests by transition team. The Trump team met with DHS officials on December 5, 2016, and requested agency records on border barriers, assets available for border wall and barrier construction, and the agency’s capabilities to expand detention. The Trump team also asked for information on an aerial surveillance program President Obama downsized that authorizes the Army National Guard to monitor the southern border. The team also reportedly asked whether biographical information on immigrants has been altered out of concern for civil liberties, and asked for copies of all executive orders and directives sent to immigration agents since Obama became president in 2009.
In response to the Trump team’s queries about building a border wall, DHS estimated that a northern border fence would cost $3.3 billion to cover 452 miles, and a southern border fence would cost $11.37 billion to add 413 miles of fencing.
Policy statements. Mr. Trump’s statement of policies related to immigration as published on his website includes building “an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border” beginning on “day one,” which he said repeatedly during his presidential campaign that “Mexico will pay for.” More recently, the transition team reportedly told Congressional Republicans that he’d prefer to pay for the wall via appropriations of U.S. taxpayer dollars and asserted that Mexico would reimburse the United States later. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had said that during his meeting with Mr. Trump in August 2016, he “made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
Among other things, the Trump statement also includes prioritizing jobs, wages, and security of Americans; establishing “new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first”; selecting immigrants based on “their likelihood of success in the U.S. and their ability to be financially self-sufficient”; vetting applicants to ensure that they support “America’s values, institutions and people,” and temporarily suspending immigration from “regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured”; detaining anyone who crosses the border without authorization until they are removed; ending sanctuary cities; immediately terminating “President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties”; tripling the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents; fully implementing a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system at all land, air, and sea ports; “[turning] off the jobs and benefits magnet; and reforming legal immigration.
Cabinet nominee statements. Mr. Trump’s Cabinet nominees’ statements and actions have sometimes but not always matched immigration statements Mr. Trump has made. John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general and Mr. Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, said that securing the U.S. border with Mexico would be his top priority but that building a wall would not be enough. “A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job. It has to be really a layered defense.” He suggested measures such as increased patrols and surveillance along the border, drones, improving alerts of DHS officials when visas expire, and partnerships with other countries to prevent drug trafficking and unauthorized travel to the United States. Gen. Kelly said that deporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients would “probably not be at the top of the list” of his priorities. Regarding Mr. Trump’s proposal to register Muslims, he said, “I don’t agree with registering people based on ethnic[ity] or religion or anything like that.”
Like Mr. Trump, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), tapped to serve as Attorney General, has been a proponent of border security measures, including physical barriers like fences. At the Republican National Convention, Sen. Sessions said, “Donald Trump will build the wall.” On the other hand, Sen. Sessions testified in his confirmation hearing that he did not support Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim immigration ban: “I do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied entry to the United States.” However, he seemed to allow some wiggle room in specific situations: “Many people do have religious views that are inimical to the public safety of the United States.” He also said, however, that he would not favor a registry of Muslims in the United States.
- Mr. Trump’s statement of policies related to immigration.