Last week I was honored to be a guest of Hillsdale College at their Constitution Day celebration in Washington, DC. For the last eight years, since the founding of Hillsdale College's Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies in Washington, DC, they have celebrated the occasion in mid September with a banquet and program of seminars on topics related to the Constitution.
This year around 300 constitutionalists gathered for dinner to hear Senator Tom Cotton (R. Ark.) present his proposals to reform the Immigration Act of 1965.
The next morning we gathered for round table discussions with a panel of constitutional scholars from Hillsdale College, Georgetown University, Notre Dame, and the Hudson Institute on such wonky topics as Natural Rights and the Constitution and the Origins of the Bureaucratic State. Over lunch, former Presidential Adviser, Sebastian Gorka, outlined the Principles of an America-First Foreign Policy.
Following this remarkable program [available to all on Hillsdale's web site], I was invited to a private White House briefing with Trump Communications Director, Kelly Ann Conway, OMB Director, Mike Mulvaney, and Special Assistant for Legislative Affairs, Dr. Paul Teller, on the current policy and legislative initiatives of the Trump administration.
On a daily basis we are inundated with a media narrative that the Trump administration is failing and staffed with amateurs and incompetents who do not understand or respect constitutional principles. Last week I bore witness to a very different story. The Trump administration is staffed with many exceptionally talented and committed constitutional conservatives. It is worth noting that Trump's two most important decisions to date--the selection of Mike Pence as his running mate, and the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court--placed constitutional conservatives in positions of great influence.
Notwithstanding the media frenzy over the President's twits, the Trump administration is making progress on many fronts that should be reassuring to constitutionalists. According to OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, the Obama administration had over 1000 new federal regulations ready to go for the new Clinton administration to implement. They were spiked on Trump's first day in office. This was a defeat for the administrative state and a victory for the separation of powers under the Constitution that has gone unheralded in the media.
Notwithstanding the fight over the Wall, border security has been dramatically improved. Illegal immigration is down and deportations are up.
Notwithstanding hysterical cries of economic nationalism, Trump's America First policies are being implemented in foreign policy and trade negotiations. Repealing Obamacare has proved a heavy lift, largely because of the defection of Republican senators. But major tax relief and an infrastructure bill are in the works. In short, there is much for constitutional conservatives to cheer. Trump has surrounded himself with top notch people--energy is high, morale is strong, and good things are happening for our country.
Two areas in particular deserve mention. Trump is the first national political figure in recent memory to advocate for a more selective and restrictionist immigration policy. He is the first President in our lifetime to talk about the negative consequences of large scale immigration, i.e., the dispossession of native born Americans and the challenges immigrants present to our economy and national identity. For example, lost in the debate over DACA is Trump's proposal to cut legal immigration in half.
Senator Tom Cotton is proposing reform of the 1965 Immigration Act that did away with the national origins quota system that had been in place since the 1920's. This system was designed to maintain the culture and national identity of the United States as a predominantly European, English speaking people. All that changed with the Immigration Act of 1965, which gave preference to under represented nationalities and their family members. This in turn gave rise to the unforeseen phenomena of anchor babies and chain migration that has rapidly changed the ethnic composition of the United States.
Cotton pointed out that if some form of DACA amnesty is ultimately approved, under current immigration law, the parents who brought their children to the US illegally, would now get preferential immigration status thru their adult children. The chain migration permitted under the current system could turn 800,000 DACA eligibles into millions of new immigrants. This unintended consequence of DACA amnesty has gone unnoticed by the mainstream media.
Cotton's proposed reform to the 1965 Immigration Act would end preferences for family reunification and under represented nationalities and replace it with a skills based system tied to our economy and the need for workers for hard to fill positions. It would undoubtedly reduce the total number of immigrants and diminish the current challenges to assimilation.
Foreign policy guru and former Presidential Adviser Sebastian Gorka, had encouraging words for Trump's America First supporters. He maintains that Trump's election was a win for constitutional government and the fight for human freedom against the power of the state. Gorka, himself an immigrant from Hungary, who taught military history before joining the Trump administration, framed the conflict in terms of military strategy. Temporary setbacks are inevitable in battle. We are pitted against intractable adversaries and must "play the long game".
Gorka, and former policy adviser Steve Bannon, were allies during the campaign in urging Trump in the direction of economic nationalism. Both left the White House staff within weeks of each other in what looked like a purge to many conservatives. Not to worry, Gorka assured us. Neither of them were forced out. Both had plans to leave the White House long before the public announcement. Both left because they believed they could be more effective in advancing Trump's program outside the White House. Trump's commitment to Make America Great Again through policies that put America First is moving forward. In short, with Trump in office, constitutional government is alive and well in Washington DC.