Jonathan Blitzer recently reported in The New Yorker insights into the operations within the Trump administration that culminated with the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
A handful of officials in the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security have spent the past year attempting to realize President Trump’s vision of an America that is less welcoming of foreigners. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff; Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General; and Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser, have led this effort. A crucial role has also been played by a lesser-known figure: Gene Hamilton, a lawyer in his mid-thirties who works as a top aide to Sessions at the Justice Department. Federal officials, congressional staffers, advocacy groups, and think-tank researchers know that Hamilton has helped shape Trump’s various travel bans, changes to refugee policies, and the implementation of an aggressive new approach to immigration enforcement. And yet, as one immigration lawyer told me of Hamilton, “he’s had such a light footprint.” Hamilton has rarely spoken to the press, and his relatively short career means that few can claim to know the exact nature of his beliefs or goals.
Last week, I obtained a two-hundred-and-thirty-five-page transcript of a deposition that Hamilton was compelled to give, in late October, as part of a federal lawsuit over the Administration’s handling of DACA, the Obama-era program that protected from deportation some eight hundred thousand undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children. The lawsuit was brought by Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. The groups’ argument is that, while the government may have been within its power to cancel DACA, the manner in which it did so—suddenly, and without warning—violated the rights of the people who relied on DACA for work permits, student loans, and other benefits. During the proceeding, Hamilton was pushed to describe the part he’d played in various Administration decisions. Over four hours, he detailed his interactions with senior officials such as Kelly and Miller, shared his personal views on immigration policy, and acknowledged, notably, that he’d been the author of the September 5th D.H.S. memo that formally terminated DACA. And, while Hamilton was careful not to answer more than he had to, the transcript offers a rare glimpse of an Administration official candidly discussing the development of a major area of policy.
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