One of President Elect Donald Trump’s main selling points of his presidential campaign was his nationalist points of view and xenophobic sentiments, promising to build a wall on the Southern border between the United States and Mexico as well as to deport millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Putting aside the challenging physical logistics of such policies (the manpower and resources it would take to mobilize millions of people who have developed lives, jobs, families, etc. here in the US and to build a wall on the scale that Trump has discussed), the ability of Trump to receive backing from Congress on them is also called into question. Historically, US policies are met with the most success when there is effective power sharing between the Congress and the executive branch of government. But this is not an easy relationship to foster. Although the Republican party now has majority rule in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and is in control of the White House, suggesting the potential of a more cohesive relationship between the executive and Congress, President Elect Trump is not a normal politician. With his promises of very aggressive policy changes, inconsistencies in these promises, and his mere lack of knowledge on the working parts of the US government, Trump might damage this potential.
Trump’s immigration policy proposals have 5 main goals: more deportations, ending deportation protections, less entries, a wall, and a Muslim ban. How much support does Trump actually need from Congress to accomplish some of these goals?
1. Ending deportation protections
President Barack Obama enacted two legislations that protect the undocumented children and parents of immigrants from being immediately deported, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Actions for Parent of Americans (DAPA). These legislations have authorized hundreds of thousands of immigrants to stay in the US and work temporarily. Although the recipients of deferred action might be the least likely targets for deportation since they are working and don’t have criminal records, President Elect Trump could very easily reverse these actions taken by President Obama, without much approval from Congress. Because President Obama issued these through an executive memorandum, Trump could simply issue one that reverses them.
2. More deportations, less entries, and a wall
It has been made clear through President Elect Trump’s presidential campaign that he would like to begin deporting more illegal immigrants, mainly ones with criminal records. Additionally, he would like to limit the amount of immigrants entering the country and to build a wall in order to help with this limiting of entries. In order to initiate these policies, Trump would need the help of Homeland Security’s border control agents and money. Trump would not need Congress approval to gain the help of already existing border control units, but if he would like more border control (which he most likely will if he plans on carrying out deportations on this scale), he will need Congress approval. He will also need Congress approval for the financials that his wall would require. Although Trump has claimed that he will make Mexico pay for the wall, he will not be able to force them to pay for it and he will unlikely receive the amounts of money he needs to build his wall. Especially considering the billions of dollars American taxpayers contribute to border security already.
3. A Muslim ban and less refugees
Although the Immigration and Nationality Act allows for certain groups of immigrants or certain specific individual immigrants to be barred from entering the US, the provision has never been used in the way that Trump proposes it be used. Banning all Muslims from entering the US would likely cause large uproar and a lot of legal pressure from civil rights groups. In order to gain congressional approval on this policy proposal, Trump would most likely have to put a terrorist spin on it, instead of using a religious framework.
To sum it up, Trump doesn't necessarily need congressional approval for the rhetoric that he wants to create, and really has already created. However, he will need congressional approval for financing some of the projects that are encompassed in his immigration policies. He is more likely to gain such approvals now that the Republican party has majorities both in Congress and Senate, but because of his abnormal political climate, there's no telling how Congress will react.