The Supreme Court is more radical than ever. Yet all nine justices thought the plethora of lower court rulings stripping the president of his constitutional and statutory power to slow down immigration went too far. The president now has a unique opportunity to expand upon his immigration order and, more broadly, kick the discredited lower courts out of immigration once and for all.
With Obamacare repeal going down in flames and Republicans accomplishing nothing else, Trump needs to notch up some transformational victories on immigration. Ensuring that America doesn’t self-immolate as a civilization, as Europe is doing before our very eyes, should be at the top of that list. Polls consistently show that the public is concerned over national security. With the Supreme Court, at least on the surface, rebuking the lower courts’ assault on the president, it’s time for Trump to step on the gas pedal and give that televised address on immigration and national security some of us called for following the London attacks.
What should he propose in this address?
Broaden the immigration moratorium
The president should immediately announce a full-year moratorium on all refugee resettlement until we can study the fiscal, social, and security costs of the program, determine how we can make it work better for Americans, and determine how to create a more feasible resettlement program overseas. There is something seriously wrong when, even according to former FBI Director James Comey, 300 of the roughly 2,000 terrorism investigations relate to refugees, well beyond their composition of the population.
Trump should word the order very ambiguously, with open-ended opportunities for waivers and exceptions. However, he must make it clear that barring some exceptions determined by the discretion of his administration, refugee resettlement is suspended. He must make it clear that the Refugee Act of 1980 grants the president full authority to set the refugee cap and that cap will be no greater than 3,000 for the coming fiscal year. The 50,000 cap he set for this fiscal year is way too high, given the record numbers we’ve brought in the past few years. By announcing the low cap for FY 2018 this early, he will send a clear message that security is paramount and that such a move is well within his authority.
As for the non-refugee immigration moratorium, it’s time that Trump expand the list of six countries. Many liberals, including lower court judges, have criticized the “random” nature of these countries and have used it as an attempt to paint the president as motivated strictly by animus instead of national interests. Trump should kill two birds with one stone by expanding the list to include all nationals or residents of countries with a significant presence of organizations designated by the State Department as terrorists.
As we’ve noted before, Syria and ISIS are far from the only problems. Two Lebanese immigrants were recently arrested and charged with engaging in espionage on our soil on behalf of Hezbollah. Just this week, a Lebanese immigrant who also lived in Paraguay was charged in federal court in Miami for drug crimes, but as the Miami Herald report observes, this man was part of the Hezbollah drug network. Although this man immigrated from Paraguay, he is a national of Lebanon. This is why it’s so important for Trump expand the moratorium to nationals of terror-haven countries, even if they last resided in a non-terrorist-saturated country. Latin America has become a growing network for Hezbollah operatives who are largely nationals of Middle Eastern countries, most prominently from Lebanon. But there are potential problems with nationals of the Middle East traveling here or immigrating from Europe and Canada as well. Earlier this month, in another under-reported episode of jihad on our soil, a Tunisian national who came here from Canada stabbed a policeman at the airport in Flint, Michigan. There is a clear need for an initial moratorium and then more scrutiny of all immigration from terrorist havens – including those who stop over in other countries for a few years.
Strip the lower courts’ jurisdiction
But won’t the courts continue to violate our sovereignty and prevent Trump from enacting common-sense security measures, you might ask?
It is true that the Supreme Court left the door open for more lawsuits, as Justice Thomas warned in his dissent. However, Trump should use the momentum from the broader 9-0 decision officially overturning most of the lower court injunction to permanently strip the lower courts of all power over immigration. In addition to stopping the moratorium, judges throughout the country are mandating sanctuary city laws and blocking deportations. We will never find a better time with more momentum to go after the lower courts than after this 9-0 smack down.
The president must remember that although Congress controls the legislative agenda, because he is the leader of the party in control of both branches, he is the de facto leader of the agenda. That is how it worked with Obama in power when Democrats controlled Congress and when Bush was in power with a GOP majority. If he is content to sit back and wait for what Congress sends him on a given issue, nothing will ever change. After all, he was elected to drain the swamp, not react to it or validate it. If he fails to demand jurisdiction-stripping legislation from McConnell and Ryan, the lower courts will continue to dismantle his immigration agenda across the board.
Wins for conservatives at the high court are increasingly rare. It would be a shame not to make the most out of this one.