On January 20th, the trajectory of America changed as Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Because of the lengthy process of legislative efforts, executive orders are common during the first few months of a new presidency.
Trump has taken advantage of his executive order privilege in several ways. On the second day of his presidency, he signed two executive orders to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access—two controversial pipeline deals that Trump plans to renegotiate in order to utilize American-made steel.
Trump signed a pair of executive orders pertaining to border security, one declaring the fulfillment of his promise to “build a wall” along the southern border of the United States and the other pledging to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers.
In what is seen by some as a first step taken to repeal Obamacare, Trump issued an executive order to the Department of Health and Human Services, stating that they must waive any parts of the Affordable Care Act that create a financial burden to states, healthcare providers or individuals.
The travel ban is commonly regarded as the most controversial executive order issued by President Trump thus far. In an effort to “keep the country safe from terrorists,” Trump suspended America’s refugee program, imposed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and restricted entrance into the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.
Dr. Dan Allen, associate professor of political science, explains the concept of an executive order. “The most important thing to know is that an executive order is not a law. It is an official statement of policy or an explanation of how a law would be implemented.”
Allen commented that “it’s extremely common for new presidents to write dozens of executive orders right away. Most of those are going to overturn executive orders from the previous president. That’s standard practice, so when I see a lot of executive orders, it doesn’t shock me.”
When laws are written by Congress, ample space is often left for them to be interpreted, and for the decision to be made of how they will be put into practice. Immigration law is one of these more ambiguous areas, and Allen explains that “the president and the executive branch have a lot of authority in determining how immigration enforcement will be prioritized.”
On the American citizens’ overwhelmingly negative response to Trump’s views on immigration and his travel ban, Allen comments that “it’s hard for me to judge how someone else should react because I won’t be directly affected by any of these orders. I do think some of the things he’s done are going to affect the livelihoods of a lot of people.”
As of now, the courts have overturned this particular executive order. In the long run, Allen expects that “it will be examined by attorneys and rewritten into something that’s actually legal.”
This means that the law will likely be phased in over time instead of “a snap of the fingers and suddenly the airports are closed and there’s chaos.” Legal residents—people with green cards—will be given the rights they are entitled to.
Hopefully, this will lead to better coordination between American immigration law and international immigration law.
Many Americans are expressing concern over the attitudes of President Trump and the policies and ideals he supports so outspokenly. While he has signed a number of controversial executive orders, he has not acted promptly in most other areas of his presidency.
“I actually don’t think he’s come off that strong at all,” says Allen. “I think he’s been incredibly opinionated, but he’s also failed to nominate about half of the jobs he needs to fill the executive branch. He has gone through three national security advisors in a month. This is remarkably slow progress compared to most other presidencies.”
No laws have passed according to the executive orders Trump has written thus far.
Allen believes that Trump has “dropped the ball” with his failure to consult the career executive branch workers at the top levels of the White House in the different areas of expertise. “He desperately needs as much wise counsel as he can get, and he’s not getting it right now.”
Allen expects immigration and trade policy to be the primary issues Trump will focus on as President. Additionally, the country is due for debates on the national budget and healthcare. Trump has also promised tax reform legislation.
In order to effectively approach these issues, Allen asserts that Trump should “put down his phone, turn off the TV and start talking to people in Congress.” Vice President Pence knows the political system well and has good relationships with the majority party and congress, and is an excellent resource for Trump.
Trump campaigned on ideas that are very different than the traditional Republican party platform, so there will be extra work required in getting people on board and passing the bills he’s talked about.
As of now, Allen believes Trump has not been effective in handling the important issues that come with his presidency. “He has potential, though.”