Biden taps lawyer to help rescind Trump immigration policy
The president’s allies have been frustrated by the delay in hiring an official focused on immigration at the Justice Department.
After months of waiting, the Biden administration has hired a former Obama official to help take apart the restrictive immigration policies developed under former President Donald Trump, according to three people familiar with the hiring.
Lucas Guttentag will serve as senior counselor on immigration policy and report to the Department of Justice’s Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. He served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser on immigration policy, including as senior counselor to the secretary of Homeland Security.
Biden had planned since the presidential transition to hire a high-ranking official at the Justice Department to focus specifically on immigration policies. But the hiring has taken six months and immigration activists have been frustrated by the delay, eager to begin the dismantling of one of the areas Trump focused on most intently during his four years in office.
The delay fed the impression that Biden’s campaign pledges on immigration had lost out to other priorities, overtaken by the need to tackle Covid-19 and a desire to push massive spending plans to help the country recover from the economic recession.
“The anxiety levels are higher than I’ve ever seen them in my 25 years here in Washington in terms of trying to undo what was done because the Trump administration was so absolutely purposeful about getting people in the administration right away who were really focused on, on making mischief,” said Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Guttentag’s post is reminiscent of the role played by Gene Hamilton during the Trump administration. Hamilton held prominent positions focused on immigration in both the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice Department, helping put together much of the immigration infrastructure that defined Trump’s presidency.
According to two of the people, Guttentag will not only help dismantle Trump-era policies but will coordinate Biden policy among various agencies and departments.
“It’s not good that it took so long, but there couldn’t be a better person in my opinion,” one of the people said. “There’s very few people who understand immigration law and policy like Lucas.”
In an email, Guttentag acknowledged he joined the administration but didn’t comment further. The White House referred questions to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prior to entering the administration, Guttentag served as law professor at Stanford Law School and lecturer at Yale Law School. He launched the Immigration Policy Tracking Project in 2017 to develop and maintain a complete record of Trump administration immigration actions.
In total, Trump made more than 400 alterations to immigration policy during his time in office, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank with staffers across the political spectrum that provides data and analysis on immigration policy. The Immigration Policy Tracking Project put that number closer to 1,000.
Whatever the number, the moves reshaped virtually every part of the U.S. immigration system through executive action, policy guidance and regulatory change. Trump pushed through policies, big and small, designed to reduce legal and illegal immigration to the United States — from lengthening the citizenship test and denying visas to citizens of several majority-Muslim nations to building 400 miles of a 30-feet steel wall along the southern border and sharply limiting the granting of asylum claims.
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