DHS acted 'in bad faith' with stealth repeal of immigration program

Article author: 
Ian Smith
Article publisher: 
The Hill
Article date: 
30 December 2016
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

The pre-Christmas news dump didn’t disappoint this year with President Obama making one of his most controversial midnight rulemakings so far.

Although dormant for years, the Department of Homeland Security decided that Dec. 23 (just 28 days before the transition) was apparently the right time to repeal the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) — a 25-year-old program expanded after 9/11 that requires aliens from high-concern countries to regularly check-in with the agency.

Apparently, in response to open-borders groups’ theatrical claims that President-Elect Trump was gearing up for a mass “muslim registry”, the administration not only killed the program, but fast-tracked and finalized the move without public consultation.

The stealth repeal makes the type of moratoriums against non-final regulatory moves, so common with incoming administrations, impossible. To restart the program, Trump will now have to go through the long notice-and-comment process all over again.

Fortunately for the president-elect, there’s little chance the exemptions DHS claimed to push through the repeal could ever withstand judicial scrutiny.

Under federal law, agencies generally must consult with the public before they propose rulemakings and rule repeals...

Further, agencies are generally required to pause final regulatory moves for 30 days after they’re announced in order to let affected parties prepare. Considering there was only 28 days between the announcement and the Jan. 20 transition day, either of these requirements, if followed, would have kept the Obama administration from burying the program for good. 

In ensuring against the repeal being overturned by Trump, the government exempted itself from normal regulatory procedure...

This is because the program’s been "underutilized," the agency [DHS] stated... former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano had apparently felt the regulatory framework was worth keeping.

Moreover, it’s simply not good government that because a substantive rule has been "underutilized" means it can be repealed on procedural grounds. 

According to the D.C. Circuit, skipping notice-and-comment on the ground that it’s “unnecessary” is permissible only for “routine determinations” involving minor or technical rules...

For this obvious showing of bad faith on the part of the agency, a court should vacate the stealth repeal of NSEERS. Outside of that, Congress should exercise its authority under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the move. This should be done for good government, if anything else.


Ian Smith is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and an information associate with immigration enforcement advocate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute.