President Trump Issues Executive Order Amending Executive Order 13597

On June 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order Amending Executive Order 13597. This Executive Order rescinds a  provision, subsection (b)(ii) of Section 2,  of an Obama Administration era Executive Order Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force On Travel and Competitiveness that read, “ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.”

Many observers view this rescission as necessary due to conflicting timelines presented by the Executive Orders with ongoing more aggressive vetting of applicants.

Fourth Circuit Ruling Continues Star-Crossed Fate of Trump Administration Travel Ban

On May 25, 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court’s nationwide injunction against the Trump administration’s executive order (EO) suspending entry into the United States of foreign nationals from six designated countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This ruling maintains the current status quo under which key provisions of the travel ban have been blocked. As a result, employees from the designated countries remain free to travel to and request admission into the United States.

The EO at issue in the case, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” is a revised version of the original executive order that had also encountered legal obstacles. Under the revised version of the executive order, the Trump administration had attempted to address some of the early objections to the original executive order by excluding certain foreign nationals from its scope, such as those who already had visas, or who were green card holders or dual nationals traveling on a passport from a non-designated country. Despite those changes, the revised EO, issued on March 6, 2017, met with challenges and legal objections similar to the original. Section 2(c) of the revised EO, “Temporary Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern During Review Period,” was the central focus in this case.

While the court was not directly evaluating the constitutionality of the travel ban, the judges took a close look at the strength of the plaintiff’s Establishment Clause claim against the EO. The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law respecting an establishment of religion. In defense of the EO, the administration has asserted a need to accord deference to the president’s actions taken to protect the nation’s security. The court, however, noted that the president’s authority cannot go unchecked, and included an examination of past statements made by President Donald Trump in its analysis.

Stating that the Trump administration’s travel ban was rooted more in the intent to bar Muslims from the country rather than in the government’s asserted national security interest, the court found that the public interest argued in favor of upholding the district court’s preliminary injunction.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement confirming that the government intends to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. A separate nationwide injunction against the EO is currently under appeal in the Ninth Circuit. Oral arguments were heard in that case on May 15, 2017, and a decision is pending. Because the case is still ongoing, this latest decision should not be considered a final determination of the EO’s fate.

This post was written by Jordan C. Mendez and Lowell Sachs of  Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

President Trump Signs New Executive Order: “Buy American and Hire American”

On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) titled “made in the USA buy american and hire americanBuy American and Hire American.” The stated purpose of this EO is to protect the American economy by having the U.S. government and agencies focus on purchasing goods made in America, and to also protect American workers. The first part of the EO includes text that focuses on conducting studies and putting forth plans for federal agencies to immediately maximize the use and procurement of materials and products made in the United States—or “Buy American.”

The second part of the EO includes text that focuses on “Hire American,” that is, reviewing current U.S. immigration laws, specifically as they relate to nonimmigrant visa categories. A summary of the second part of the EO is below:

Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to “Hire American”:

  • The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security are tasked with proposing new rules and issuing new guidance with the intent of protecting U.S. workers and eliminating fraud or abuse.

  • In addition, the text of the EO directs that reforms should be focused on ensuring that H-1B status is only granted to those who are the “most-skilled” or the “highest-paid.”

This EO comes only a few weeks after various U.S. federal agencies tasked with administering immigration law issued guidance and decisions with the intent of preventing fraud and abuse in the immigration system, specifically the H-1B program. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor all released statements and/or policy with regard to the H-1B program.  To see a summary regarding these statements and/or policies, please visit our previous post.

 ©2017 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.

Interior Secretary Immediately Implements President’s Executive Order on Energy and Climate

President Trump Executive Order Environmental RegulationNew Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wasted no time implementing the mandates of the Trump Administration’s most recent Executive Order (EO), “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which was issued on March 28. On March 29, the Secretary issued two Secretarial Orders (SO) implementing the March 28 Order, and took additional administrative action consistent with its mandates. Separately, the Secretary has reinstated a public-private advisory committee to address royalty issues.

The first Order, SO 3348, overturns the Obama Administration’s 2016 moratorium on federal coal leasing, and terminates the programmatic environmental impact statement process under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would have re-evaluated the environmental impacts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) coal leasing program.  Hours after this SO was issued, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Department in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana challenging the decision to lift the moratorium and resume federal coal leasing without first completing the NEPA process.

The second Order, SO 3349, implements the agency review provisions of the March 28 EO directed to the Department of the Interior.  Specifically, SO 3349:

  1. revokes SO 3330, “Improving Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior,” which was a prior Department-wide directive to adopt more landscape-level mitigation strategies and more rigorous compensatory mitigation criteria;

  2. directs each bureau to review all regulations, orders, and policies that could hamper energy development and, where permissible, rescind, revoke or suspend such regulations, orders, and policies;

  3. directs review of Departmental actions impacting energy development, including re-evaluation of BLM’s “venting and flaring rule” for oil and gas leases, for consistency with the policies set forth in the March 28 EO;

  4. directs BLM to “expeditiously proceed” with a proposal to rescind its 2015 hydraulic fracturing rule, which was invalidated by a federal district court and is now on appeal to the Tenth Circuit; and

  5. directs each bureau and office to identify other existing actions that could potentially burden the development of domestic energy resources, particularly oil, gas, coal, and nuclear resources.

The SO affords the Interior agencies little time to accomplish this work. Deadlines fall within the next 90 days, including as soon as 14 days.

Finally, Secretary Zinke signed a charter re-establishing a Royalty Policy Committee (RPC).  As it had done in prior years, the RPC will operate as a Federal Advisory Committee Act body providing regular advice to the Secretary on fair market value and collection of revenue from federal and Indian mineral and energy leases, including renewable energy leases.  The group will consist of up to 28 federal, local, Tribal, state, and other stakeholders, and will also advise on royalty-related regulatory matters.

President Trump to Give State of Union Address; Senate to Vote on Ross’ Nomination; Pentagon to Submit Its Anti-ISIS Plan

Trump State of Union AddressPresident Donald Trump is preparing to release another immigration-related Executive Order (E.O.) that is expected to refine a previous directive that banned Syrian refugees from entering the United States and suspended the issuance of visas and admission into the United States for foreign nationals from seven countries of “particular concern.” The President will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday and give a speech expected to focus on the renewal of the American spirit.

The U.S. Congress returns to Washington on Monday, 27 February, with the Senate scheduled to vote that evening on Wilbur Ross’ nomination to serve as Secretary of Commerce.  The Pentagon is also set to submit its plan for defeating ISIS to the White House on Monday.

Syria: Combatting ISIS – DoD Plan Completed

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis concluded his first trip to the Middle East on 20 February, a trip that included stops in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq. Pentagon Press Operations Director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Tuesday that Secretary Mattis gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the Defense Department’s (DoD) strategy to defeat ISIS to the White House this week.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said of the military-political plan at a Brookings Institution event last week: “In the development of the plan, we have been engaged at every level of the State Department” he said.  Chairman Dunford added:  “Anything we do on the ground has to be in the context of political objectives or it is not going to be successful.”  The intelligence community and the Treasury Department have also participated in development of the plan.

Pentagon Spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Friday that the Pentagon has supported an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS under both the Trump and Obama Administrations. “An AUMF would make a lot of our congressional authorities clearer, and that thinking has not changed,” Davis said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) recently traveled to Syria to speak with U.S. forces there about the campaign against ISIS, according to his office last Wednesday. His trip comes as U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters that the Pentagon is considering whether to deploy additional troops to Syria. Chairman McCain met next with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud on 21 February. The two reportedly discussed regional issues and enhancing U.S. cooperation with the Kingdom.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dated 22 February that urged the Administration to “ensure Assad, Russia and Iran are made to answer for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria.”  While all 10 Democratic Members of the SFRC signed the letter, Republican committee members appeared to be more reluctant in signing.  The letter also asks for an update on the Administration’s steps to document war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Iranian Naval Exercise Underway

Iran launched naval drills on Sunday, amid increased tension with the United States after the Trump Administration put “Iran on notice.” The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in the region.

Russia – Washington Scrutiny

Washington and the media continue to focus on increased allegations of Russian meddling in the United States. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) said at this point there is no evidence of improper influence with respect to the Trump Administration, adding the House would not engage in a “witch hunt.”  Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), who serves as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cautioned this weekend against some calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the Administration’s alleged ties.  Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting an investigation of Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 U.S. election.

Mexico City Trip Readout

Secretary Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met Thursday with several Mexican officials, including Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. According to the State Department, both sides acknowledged that “two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences,” while also reaffirming “close cooperation on economic and commercial issues such as energy, legal migration, security, education exchanges, and people-to-people ties.”

Both sides also agreed the “two countries should seize the opportunity to modernize and strengthen our trade and energy relationship.” With respect to border security, the discussion included: (1) dismantling transnational criminal organizations that move drugs and people into the United States; (2) stopping the illicit flow of firearms and “bulk cash” that is originating in the United States and transiting to Mexico; and (3) curtailing irregular migration, which includes securing Mexico’s southern border and supporting efforts to stem the migration from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Press Secretary Spicer said of the bilateral meetings at the Thursday press briefing:

“Both sides had a candid discussion on the breadth of challenges and opportunities as part of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. The conversation covered a full range of bilateral issues, including energy, legal migration, security, education exchanges, and people-to-people ties.”

Peru Bilateral Meeting

President Trump met on Friday with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was in the United States to receive an award from Princeton University. In remarks before the bilateral meeting, President Trump said Peru has been a “fantastic neighbor.” President Kuczynski noted:  “Latin America needs to grow more, and we’re going to talk about how to do that.”  White House readout of the meeting reflected:  “President Trump underscored the continued United States commitment to expanding trade and investment ties with Peru and others in the Asia-Pacific region.” The two leaders also discussed the political and economic situation in Venezuela.  President Trump also thanked Peru for hosting the 8th meeting of the Summit of the Americas next year.

Human Trafficking – A Priority

President Trump led a listening session on domestic and international human trafficking on Thursday. He acknowledged:

“Human trafficking is a dire problem, both domestically and internationally, and is one that’s made really a challenge [sic]. And it’s really made possible to a large extent, more of a modern phenomenon, by what’s taking place on the Internet, as you probably know.  Solving the human trafficking epidemic, which is what it is, is a priority for my administration”

He said he would direct the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, as well as other federal agencies, to examine its resources and determine whether additional resources are needed to combat human trafficking: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the meeting: “Their expertise [re: meeting participants] will be invaluable to the President as he engages with members of Congress to raise awareness about, and push through, legislation aimed at preventing all forms of the horrific and unacceptable practice of the buying and selling of human lives.”

Foreign Policy Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 28 February, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Iraq After Mosul.”

  • On Tuesday, 28 February, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Issues and Opportunities in the Western Hemisphere.”

  • On Tuesday, 28 February, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Checking China’s Maritime Push.”

  • On Wednesday, 1 March, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

  • On Thursday, 2 March, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy.”

Defense Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 28 February, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Hearing on Department of Defense Inspector General Report ‘Investigation on Allegations relating to USCENTCOM Intelligence Products.’”

  • On Wednesday, 1 March, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Cyber Warfare in the 21st Century: Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities.”

  • On Wednesday, 1 March, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “U.S. Ground Force Capability and Modernization Challenges in Eastern Europe.”

  • On Thursday, 2 March, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Cyber Strategy and Policy.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 28 February: President Trump to address a joint session of Congress

  • Mid-March?: Release of the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2018

  • 14-15 March: Chile to host a Pacific Trade Summit in Vina del Mar, Chile

  • 21-23 April: World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meeting in Washington

  • 28 April: U.S. Federal Government funding expires

© Copyright 2017 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP

President Trump Establishes Regulatory Budgets by Executive Order

law books, regulatory budgetAmid  all of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s Executive Order suspending immigration from seven countries, and his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, another executive order that may be at least as significant in the long run to reining in the administrative state has not received much attention.  The Executive Order on “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” issued on January 30 without much fanfare, did three things: (1) required every agency promulgating any new regulation to get rid of two existing regulations; (2) required that the projected cost to the economy of the regulations being eliminated must be at least as great as the costs of the new one, as computed under standard Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines, and (3) authorized OMB to impose a regulatory budget on each agency.

The first point, sometimes called “one in, two out,” has garnered some media attention, but in the long run, the other two provisions limiting regulatory costs may be at least as significant, particularly for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has historically imposed about half the costs of federal government regulation on the economy.  But this Executive Order also takes us into new territory and raises a host of legal questions.

The idea of a “regulatory budget” to constrain the costs government imposes on the economy  has been discussed since the 1970’s.  The basic idea is to adopt Madison’s constitutional concept of “balancing ambition with ambition” to regulate the regulators.  However, in the past, establishing a regulatory budget has generally been thought to require legislation.  Although proposed on numerous occasions, statutory authority to impose regulatory budgets has never been enacted.  It remains to be seen whether the courts will allow a binding regulatory budget to be imposed on agencies by the White House acting alone.

The Administrative Procedure Act specifically creates a cause of action to “compel agency action unlawfully withheld” as well as a right to petition for new rules.  How will the courts react when agencies begin to turn down petitions for new rules because there is no room for them in the agency’s regulatory budget, or because the agency judges them to be less important than existing rules that would have to be eliminated to pay for the new regulations?

In Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Ass’n. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 463 U.S. 29 (1983), the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Reagan Administration unilaterally to rescind an existing rule requiring automatic seat belts.  That precedent appears to require not only notice and comment but also a rational basis in the record that will survive judicial review in order to eliminate a legislative rule previously promulgated through notice and comment procedures.  What weight will the courts give to agency proposals to eliminate existing rules because they are required to do so in order to promulgate new ones under the Trump Executive Order?  And what about emergency rules or rules required by statute?  Do those also require elimination of two existing regulations?

Even assuming that the courts do uphold President Trump’s authority to impose the requirements discussed above on agencies and departments “in” the Executive Branch, what about the “independent” agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?   These agencies often consist of multi-member commissions, sometimes with staggered terms and members of different political parties and a statutory prohibition on firing except for good cause.  On its face, the Executive Order does not exempt them, but the President’s power to direct them is unclear.  In Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602 (1935), the Supreme Court held that President Roosevelt could not fire the Chairman of the FTC for policy differences.  More recently, the Obama Administration issued an Executive Order stating that independent agencies “should” comply with prior executive directives regarding public participation, scientific integrity in the rule making process, and retrospective analyses.  A number of independent agencies followed President Obama’s Order, but have been careful to characterize it as “ask[ing]” or “request[ing],” not mandating, agency action.

There are also a host of implementation questions that will presumably have to be answered by the OMB guidance implementing the recent Executive Order.  Many regulations, particularly in the environmental area, require large initial capital costs, but much lower costs for on-going operation and maintenance expenses; for example, when installing new pollution control equipment.  In assessing whether the costs of the eliminated regulations balances the costs of the new regulations, may the agency take into account the historic costs that have already been incurred (what economists call “sunk costs”), or only the current on-going costs that would be eliminated if those regulations were rescinded (what economists call “avoided costs”)?

More broadly, this Executive Order, as well as prior executive actions relating to the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines and Infrastructure Permitting, provides insight into the strategy that the Trump Administration appears to intend to use to control the so-called “Administrative State.”  For years, Presidents have struggled to impose policy direction and control on the actions of agency bureaucrats whom they generally cannot fire due to civil service protections. Past approaches have included the creation of the Senior Executive Service who are subject to dismissal, the OIRA review process for new rules, and the White House “czars” created by the Obama Administration.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the Trump Administration intends to try to manage the agencies by Executive Order, a strategy that some legal scholars have questioned as constitutionally dubious if the President directs particular actions as opposed to establishing general principles.

© 2017 Covington & Burling LLP

New Trump Executive Order to Suspend Entry of Persons from Certain Countries Expected

Donald Trump Syrian Refugees“Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” is expected to be the next Executive Order on immigration from the Trump Administration. This Order is intended to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks” and “ensure that those admitted into our country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”

The Order likely will:

  • Block Syrian refugees from entering the United States for an indefinite period until the President lifts the ban while creating safe zones in Syria to house those awaiting resettlement.

  • Bar other refugees for at least 120 days while the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 2017 is reviewed and new vetting procedures are in place.

  • Prioritize claims of religious minorities suffering from persecution (essentially prioritizing claims by non-Muslims).

  • Reduce the overall number of refugees admitted in 2017 to 50,000 (below that proposed by the Obama Administration).

  • Suspend entries and the issuance of visas for at least 30 days from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen while the government reviews its screening processes.

  • Suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program that allows returning nonimmigrants to extend their visas without appearing for in-person interviews at Consulates abroad.

  • Expedite the completion of a biometric entry-exit tracking system to enable better tracking of foreign nationals in the United States and prevent overstays.

  • Collect and make public information on the number of foreign-born individuals who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses, who have been “radicalized” after entry and engaged in terrorism-related acts, and who have committed gender-based violence against women or “honor killings.”

During the contemplated suspension periods, the Order would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to determine what information is needed from applicants’ countries of origin to ascertain whether those foreign nationals would pose a threat to the United States. Further, the Order would direct that foreign nationals from countries that refuse to comply would be prohibited from entry until their country of origin does comply.

ARTICLE BY Forrest G. Read IV

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017