Sean Spicer on ending Obama's executive amnesties: That's not Trump's top priority right now

Some solid executive orders were signed this morning — but not one rescinding DACA and DAPA, Obama’s two amnesties for illegals, which Trump vowed early in the campaign had to go. What happened to that one? Spicer:

“First and foremost, the president’s been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally and have a record – a criminal record or oppose a threat to the American people,” he said. That’s where the priorities are going to be and then we’re going to continue to work through the entire number of folks that are here illegally. But right now the clear focus is on that.”

Makes sense. Get the dangerous ones out immediately, worry about the least dangerous ones — the young ones, the college kids — last. But … that’s what Obama said too. That’s why he ordered his executive amnesties, he claimed. It was a matter of prosecutorial discretion. By sending DREAMers to the back of the line, the White House would let ICE and other agencies focus their resources on grabbing and deporting the criminals. Spicer was asked about DACA again later in the briefing and said something even more interesting: “We don’t have anything in front of us right now to sign on that, so give us a little time. We’ll see what Congress moves forward with.” Congress? Has the Trump White House decided to leave DACA and DAPA in place while Ryan and McConnell cook up a comprehensive immigration bill of some sort?

Reince Priebus was also asked yesterday about rescinding O’s amnesties — and also replied by mentioning Congress:

WALLACE: Let’s turn to what he’s going to actually be doing this week. Monday, he says it’s his first full day of work, although he’s already done quite a lot already. What — do you know what executive actions he’s going to sign tomorrow and this week? And specifically, and is he going to undo DACA, the Obama executive action to defer deportation for the 700,000 so-called DREAMers who were brought into this country illegally as children?

PRIEBUS: Well, on the last one, I think we’re going to work with House and Senate leadership as well to get a long-term solution on that issue, but —

WALLACE: So, you won’t undo DACA until —

PRIEBUS: I’m not going to make any commitments to you, but I’ve, you know, I’m obviously foreshadowed there a little bit. But I think this week, we’re going to talk about trade. I think we’re going to talk about that a little bit more tomorrow. I think we’re going to talk about immigration this week and we’re going to have a time of national security, a conversation about that, obviously, with General Mattis.

A little horse-trading involving funding for the wall in return for amnesty for DREAMers seems like a natural compromise to be made in Congress — but that doesn’t answer the question of what should be done about Obama’s executive amnesties. Remember, it was a core conservative argument for years that O’s executive actions weren’t just bad policy but unconstitutional as an infringement on separation of powers. Trump himself signed on to that argument. As convenient as it might be for the new White House to sit tight on DACA and DAPA while Ryan and McConnell try to come up with a legislative solution, how do you leave an order that you believe is illegal on the books?

The likely outcome here, I assume, is that Trump will issue an order declaring that the two programs are over, that they’ll accept no new enrollments and won’t be renewed, but that DREAMers currently enrolled in the program will be allowed to continue in it until their own individual enrollment expires according to its natural term. (DACA work permits last for two years.) That’ll buy the GOP time to resolve this issue in Congress before the vast majority of DREAMers lose their legal status while also letting Trump claim that he ended the two programs as promised even if he didn’t exactly rescind O’s orders. I hope Ryan and McConnell are prepared to act quickly, though. Some DREAMers in the program are subject to orders of removal and will likely be deported quickly by the DOJ as they lose their legal status, and Democrats and their media friends will be eager to make hay of that politically. Schumer might cave by agreeing to a deal on DREAMers, but he’ll want to inflict as much political pain on the GOP as he can first. Meanwhile, though, DACA and DAPA continue — with new work permits still being issued to enrollees. Why hasn’t Trump at least issued an order freezing the programs?

Here’s Spicer at today’s briefing reassuring the media that it’s never his intention to lie to them, notwithstanding Saturday afternoon’s unpleasantness. Exit question via Drew McCoy: If Trump doesn’t rescind Obama’s amnesties, does that mean the federal lawsuit filed against those programs by red-state governors will go forward — with Trump’s government as the defendant?