No other issue more distinguished President Donald Trump as a candidate than immigration, but after nearly 100 days in office, views of hard-liners on his performance vary wildly.
Trump, who hits the symbolic milestone on Saturday, has fulfilled some campaign promises and flip-flopped on others.
“Not so much because of the things that haven’t been done yet … The reason I wouldn’t give him an A is three particular problems.”
Opposition from the courts and Congress have slowed progress in some areas, and his administration simply has not yet acted one way or the other on a number of items.
What follows are report-card grades offered by experts and activists who favor tougher enforcement against illegal immigration and reforms in the legal immigration system — everything including visas that allow foreigners to come for extended periods of time to work in the U.S., the refugee resettlement program, and the number of foreigners legally admitted into the country each year.
Grader: Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Krikorian said Trump deserves credit for restoring normalcy to basic immigration policy after years of radical departure by former President Barack Obama, who shielded large classes of foreigners from deportation and ordered border-patrol officials to release many of the illegal immigrants they apprehended near Mexico.
But Trump falls short of an A grade, Krikorian said.
“Not so much because of the things that haven’t been done yet … The reason I wouldn’t give him an A is three particular problems,” he said.
Trump’s decision on DACA is an outright flip-flop considering candidate Trump called it unconstitutional. Krikorian said Trump has compounded the harm by not only declining to cancel it but continuing to expand it, by issuing new work permits to applicants brought to America as children. He said the president missed an opportunity to trade it for concessions by Democrats for immigration legislative proposals.
Krikorian said backing away from a demand for a down payment on the wall is so harmful because it undermines his credibility on his own signature issue.
Krikorian said it remains early but argued the administration should by now have pursued cases against businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
On the bright side, Krikorian said, the administration has pressed to end “sanctuary” policies by cities and counties. Publishing a weekly list of prisoners released despite hold requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials could prove a powerful “shaming” tool, he said.
In addition, Krikorian said, the Trump administration has increased ICE arrests simply by casting a wider net.
“What the Trump administration has done is not revolutionary,” he said. “It’s just restoring normal immigration enforcement.”
Grader: William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee.
Gheen has gone so far as to threaten to retroactively rescind the endorsement his organization gave Trump during the presidential campaign. He said that would happen on Monday if Trump does not reverse himself on DACA.
“Mostly because of the fact that he lied to us,” Gheen said, in explaining his grade of D. “He lied to us on core issues. It’s disappointing and painful for us to say that.”
Gheen also knocked Trump over his handling of the refugee issue. He criticized the administration for honoring a deal that the Obama administration made with Australia to take as many as 1,250 refugees held in detention facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. What’s more, resettlement of Middle Eastern refugees continues.
Trump had tried to freeze the refugee program as part of his temporary travel ban executive order, but federal judges have put the entire order on hold. Still, Gheen said Trump could have stopped refugees without tying it to other parts of the executive order.
“If the president wanted to stop refugee resettlement, he could,” he said. “He’s continuing to import dangerous Muslim refugees … It is becoming clearer every day that Donald Trump is not the man we thought he was.”
Grader: Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Grade: A+ (grading on a curve in a classroom of two that includes 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.)
Stein said Trump shines when compared to the alternative. He said restoring order to immigration policy is “enormously complex after Obama sabotaged things.”
At the same time, Stein had criticisms for Trump. In addition to DACA, he said. Trump erred by not taking a stronger stand on funding the wall.
“The more these things get pushed off to 2018, the more it seems to be just another political football,” he said. “He’s losing a certain amount of momentum because he appears to be acquiescing.”
Stein praised Trump’s appointments of Attorney General Jeff Sessions Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. But he said he was disappointed that Trump did not find a place for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and key positions remain vacant.
“They’ve been slow to hire. They need more people with knowledge,” he said. “The Trump administration is tying to do a lot of things at the same time … He didn’t bring a lot of legs with him.”
Grader: Joseph Guzzardi, spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization.
Guzzardi said Trump gets an F on DACA, which he called a “complete cave-in.”
He added, “His base is justified in wondering where it’s all going to end.”
But Guzzardi said the president pulled up his overall grade with top-notch appointments like Sessions and Kelly.
A federal judge held up part of Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary city policies but made clear the administration can withhold funds from certain grant programs that make compliance with federal immigration law a condition of those grants. The Department of Justice this month began the process by putting 10 large sanctuary cities on notice.
“I give him high marks on saber-rattling on sanctuary cities,” Guzzardi said.
Grader: David Cross, spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform.
Cross said he had confidence that Trump will succeed to deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records. He said 974 inmates in Oregon prisons are illegal immigrants; about 7 percent of the total.
“He’s focused on criminal aliens … That should be a priority,” he said.
Cross credited Trump for creating an office specifically designed to help the victims of illegal immigrant crime. He aid
“I remember him meeting with victims in Southern California during the campaign … He has a lot of character on victims,” he said.
Legislation to reduce legal immigration and reform guest-worker programs remains stalled in Congress. But Cross said Trump deserves a pass for congressional gridlock. Plus, he added, it has only been 99 days.
“That’s such a short period of time when you consider all the obstacles,” he said.