Trump’s Legal Authority

by Rich Lowry

The first thing you should do is read Andy’s piece. But this CRS report is also very instructive:

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that individual aliens outside the United States are “inadmissible”—or barred from admission to the country—on health, criminal, security, and other grounds set forth in the INA. However, the INA also grants the Executive several broader authorities that could be used to exclude certain individual aliens or classes of aliens for reasons that are not specifically prescribed in the INA.

Section 212(f) of the INA is arguably the broadest and best known of these authorities. It provides, in relevant part, that

“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Over the years, Presidents have relied upon Section 212(f) to suspend or otherwise restrict the entry of individual aliens and classes of aliens, often (although not always) in conjunction with the imposition of financial sanctions upon these aliens. Among those so excluded have been aliens whose actions “threaten the peace, security, or stability of Libya”; officials of the North Korean government; and aliens responsible for “serious human rights violations.”

Neither the text of Section 212(f) nor the case law to date suggests any firm legal limits upon the President’s exercise of his authority to exclude aliens under this provision. 

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