Peeling Back Executive Overreach, One Layer at a Time

By Dan Cadman on June 30, 2017

It may sound oxymoronic, perhaps contrarian, but I have come to appreciate in a new light — through schadenfreude — the executive overreach that took place during Barack Obama's eight years of office.

The reason is because even though the current president has had much of his get-tough immigration agenda at least temporarily blocked through a bevy of litigation and decisions by activist courts nationwide, it's been a somewhat different story on the executive action front: What one president has done, another can pretty much undo, given the will and desire.

President Trump and his cabinet officials have repeatedly taken steps to peel back some of the damage wrought under the Obama administration by irresponsible immigration policies. (I won't say "thoughtless" policies, because I believe many of them were carefully thought through, and achieved exactly the kind of open borders free-for-all that they intended.) That has been a pleasure to watch.

Unfortunately, there have also been some refusals to act, and a few half steps. A prime example is the fact that the administrative "Dreamers" amnesty invented out of whole cloth by the prior White House inexplicably continues in force to this day.

The most recent example of a half step comes to us courtesy of Obama's Executive Order (EO) 13597, which was a kind of stealth executive action that demanded that the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs up its visa production levels so much as to equate to quotas, including in countries that have traditionally shown themselves to have significant numbers of visa violators who fail to return home when their authorization to remain expires.

EO 13597 also required that at least 80 percent of all visas globally be adjudicated within three weeks (and damn the security implications). Given the hundreds of thousands of visa applications being juggled by consular officers worldwide at any one time, the mandate stopped just short of insisting that they cut corners and just "get to yes" right at the start of the visa application process. But the implication was clear.

When considered in light of the growing problem of visa violators, who now constitute nearly half of all aliens residing illegally in the United States, not to mention the adverse and potentially disastrous consequences to our homeland security, a rational argument can be made that mere issuance of EO 13597 amounted to official misfeasance, if not downright malfeasance.

On June 21, President Trump issued his own EO, amending the original EO 13597. By the stroke of a pen, he ended that portion involving the three-week deadline.

This is excellent news.

Unfortunately, the amendment left intact some other dubious mandates: "increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year" and "increase efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program participants."

There are consequences to the decision to let those portions stand.

For instance, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recently proposed a State Department budget for fiscal year 2018 that amounts to a 32 percent reduction in current funding levels. Does it really make sense, then, to increase visa capacities in two countries by 40 percent? Particularly when even a modest percentage of violators from China and Brazil, nations that are extremely populous, can constitute a substantial increase in the number of illegal aliens residing in our country?

Consider also the requirement to expand use of the Visa Waiver Program by nationals of participant countries. Intelligence and security agencies all over the world are telling us that foreign jihadists fighting on behalf of ISIS and other terrorist organizations are drifting away from the battlefields of the Middle East and heading home to their countries of nationality (see here and here) — countries that include nations such Denmark, Belgium, Britain, France, and many other western European participants in the Visa Waiver Program.

Is it wise therefore to leave the "increase Visa Waiver Program use" mandate in place at such a time? Only if you believe that our homeland security officials are fully capable of sorting wheat from chaff, and won't make a mistake in admitting someone, or several someones, that results in death and mayhem. History tells us otherwise.