Trump Considering Naming an ‘Immigration Czar’

Jill Colvin and Colleen Long, Associated Press, April 2, 2019

As he threatens to shut down the southern border, President Donald Trump is considering bringing on a “border” or “immigration czar” to coordinate immigration policy across various federal agencies, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

Trump is weighing at least two potential candidates for the post: former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to the people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the conversations publicly.

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The planning comes as Trump is threatening anew to close the U.S.-Mexico border as soon as this week if Mexico does not completely halt illegal immigration into the U.S. And it serves as the latest sign that the president plans to continue to hammer his hardline immigration rhetoric and policies as he moves past the special counsel’s Russia investigation and works to rally his base heading into his 2020 re-election campaign.

Aides hope the potential appointment, which they caution is still in the planning stages, would serve as the “face” of the administration on immigration issues and would placate both the president and his supporters, showing he is serious and taking action.

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A Department of Homeland Security official noted that White House czars have been appointed in the past when there has been an “urgent need” for sustained, inter-agency policy coordination. While Homeland Security often plays a leading role when it comes to immigration policy and enforcement, the department is not in charge of officials at the departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense and Justice, which often play key roles.

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Earlier this year, for example, Health and Human Services closed down a temporary facility being used to house migrant children in Tornillo, Texas, creating a problem for border agents who ran out of bed space when the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border spiked. Homeland Security is not allowed to hold children in detention facilities for longer than 20 days.

And last year, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted a “zero tolerance” policy at the border without consulting others, causing a spike in the number of migrant children separated from their families.

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It has yet to be decided whether the czar position would be housed within Homeland Security or within the White House, which would not require Senate confirmation.

A person positioned within the White House could coordinate immigration policy across various agencies, working closely with aides who are deeply involved in the issue, including senior advisers Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner, national security adviser John Bolton and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who supports the idea.

Appointing a person based within Homeland Security could be trickier because the department’s agency heads are all Senate-confirmed positions {snip}.

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Kobach, an immigration hardliner, ran a failed bid for governor promising to drive immigrants living in the U.S. illegally out of the country. He has recently been working for a nonprofit corporation, WeBuildtheWall Inc., which has been raising private money to build Trump’s wall.

Cuccinelli has advocated for denying citizenship to American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally, limiting in-state tuition at public universities only to those who are citizens or legal residents, and allowing workers to file lawsuits when an employer knowingly hires someone living in the country illegally for taking a job from a “law abiding competitor.”

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