In White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s West Wing office, there hangs a whiteboard on which he’s listed several key promises the administration has made.
We’ve now gotten a glimpse of that whiteboard — and it’s a doozy.
A tweet from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a Brietbart contributor, revealed part of the whiteboard in the background of a Boteach/Bannon buddy pic. Over Bannon’s left shoulder hangs a jaw-droppingly ambitious immigration agenda — one that could severely curb legal immigration to the US and shovel unauthorized immigrants into deportation proceedings.
There are 18 bullet points in the “Pledges on Immigration” section, which appears to be the largest one on the whiteboard. While the text of some of them is cut off by the edge of the picture, it’s pretty easy to extrapolate what’s being said if you’re familiar with the Trump campaign and the immigration debate (something I’ve done with parentheses and italics below).
Pledges on immigration
-Cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities
-Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions ✓
-Implement new extreme immigration vetting techn(ology)
-Suspend the Syrian Refugee Program ✓
-Create support program for victims of illegal im(migrants)
-Expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partne(rships)
-Issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are (...) for any crime, and they will be placed into im(migration) removal proceedings ✓
-End “Catch-And-Release” ✓
-Hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents ✓
-Restore the Secure Communities Program ✓
-Triple the number of ICE agents ✓
-Build the border wall and eventually make Mexico (pay for it)
-Sunset our visa laws so that Congress is forced (...) revise and revisit them
-Finally complete the biometric entry-exit visa tra(cking system)
-Propose Passage of Davis-Oliver Bill
-Immediately terminate Obama’s “two illegal e(xecutive orders”?)
-(...) to pass “Kate’s Law”
It’s hard to overstate just how sweeping this agenda is. If it were enacted in full, it would create a tremendously efficient pipeline for arresting immigrants and bringing them into deportation proceedings (thanks to the expansion of partnerships with local police under the 287(g) program; the tripling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents; and the proposal to put every single unauthorized immigrant — including, presumably, victims of crime and domestic violence — into deportation proceedings if they have any criminal record).
It could go after the one group of unauthorized immigrants Trump has declined to target so far — young adults protected under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, one of the “two illegal” executive orders likely referred to on the whiteboard.
It would all but destroy US-Mexico relations, since Mexico has said it will not pay for a wall on the US-Mexico border and that it would consider the building of one a hostile act.
It could all but sabotage elements of the legal immigration system: If President Trump refused to sign any bills reauthorizing or extending visa programs, “sunsetting” them, the US government would have to stop issuing the visas in question while Congress tried to work out reforms the president would find acceptable. (Presumably, these changes would be to reduce the number of visas issued or raise the standards for them.)
Coming from an aide to a president who on Tuesday endorsed a “good shutdown” of the government to get what he wanted, it’s an important reminder that immigration restrictions are extremely important to powerful people who are entirely willing to play hardball with Congress to get them.
Does Bannon need Trump to actually do these things, or just to say he’s done them?
Of the seven items on the whiteboard that have visible checkmarks next to them, four haven’t happened yet and at least three have been prevented from happening. (The attempts to suspend “immigration from terror-prone regions” and the Syrian refugee program, both part of the executive order known as the “travel ban,” have been held up in court; the funding package currently making its way through Congress to keep the government open contains no money to hire new ICE agents, much less triple them.)
Sure, Trump is going to continue to push for the travel ban to be put into effect and for the money to hire new ICE agents. But those are battles he hasn’t lost yet, not battles he’s won.
There’s a genuine question here about what it means to Bannon for Trump to keep his promises. If Bannon is genuinely satisfied with Trump’s attempts to, say, suspend Syrian refugee resettlement so far, it indicates he’s less interested in actually changing policy (and changing people’s lives) than in giving Trump something to declare victory over. If that’s the case, there’s little in here to alarm immigrants — it’s all just bluster.
But if Bannon believes that Trump was put into office to keep these promises — and that keeping them means actually making them happen, not just trying — he appears to have his work cut out for him.
The whiteboard gives Trump enough of an immigration agenda to sustain an entire first term. If Bannon is more loyal to the whiteboard — to Trumpism — than he is to Trump, and Trump doesn’t deliver, it raises the question of how far Bannon (and the rest of the Trumpist base) is willing to go to push his former champion to transform America in the ways he promised.