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How Trump’s Defense Is Coming Together

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Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Pete Buttigieg greeting each other at his confirmation hearing.


Former President Donald Trump often complained about what he called a “deep state” inside the government working to thwart his agenda.

But now, as Zolan Kanno-Youngs and I report in a new article, President Biden is already encountering pockets of internal resistance, especially at the agencies responsible for enforcing immigration laws — where the gung-ho culture has long favored Trump’s get-tough policies.

“There are people in ICE that agree with Trump’s policies,” said Thomas Homan, a blustery immigration hard-liner who served as Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “They want to do the job they took an oath to do.”

Biden campaigned on overhauling the government’s immigration agencies, and tension is already brewing between the new president and those at the Homeland Security Department, which includes ICE.

Videos celebrating Trump’s “big, beautiful” border wall are still featured on the Customs and Border Protection website. And the union representing ICE agents — whose leadership enthusiastically supported Trump — has signaled that it does not intend to accept all of the new administration’s reversals of the former president’s policies.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy counsel for the American Immigration Council, which advocates on behalf of immigrants, said that after “four years of a newly empowered and politicized work force,” ICE and Customs and Border Protection agents were “more likely to push back against an incoming administration than in the past.”

The emergence of an emboldened resistance inside the Biden administration is not limited to the homeland security agencies. Pockets of government employees loyal to Trump and his agenda remain ensconced in other parts of the bureaucracy.

Still, Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration overhaul, said, “It’s going to be most intense at D.H.S.”

Homan predicted that some in the bureaucracy would seek to undermine the new president by leaking documents, something that is already happening. Shortly after Biden’s Homeland Security Department issued a memo establishing new enforcement priorities and pausing deportations, an internal email sent to an ICE field office in Houston ended up on Fox News.

The email, which suggested that some immigrants in custody should be released, set off a firestorm in the conservative news media. (Biden has not issued a directive to release immigrant detainees.)


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