Biden Tasks Progressive Foe With Undoing Trump Immigration Policies Cass Sunstein attends AOL Build Speaker Series – Cass Sunstein, "The World According To Star Wars" at AOL Studios In New York on May 31, 2016 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 07 April 2021 10:00 AM
An official who previously upset progressives has been helping President Joe Biden seek ways to roll back Trump administration immigration policies.
Cass Sunstein, who joined the Department of Homeland Security in February as a senior counselor, has been overseeing and coordinating rulemaking across all of DHS' agencies, The Hill reported.
While his appointment likely displeases conservatives, Sunstein also has upset progressives who believe he stalled much-needed regulations while leading the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration.
Now, Sunstein and other high-ranking officials are focused on dismantling about 1,000 immigration measures put in place by the Trump administration.
"Conservatives and other critics of regulation are loathe to admit that they actually support more regulation when it comes to restricting immigration," said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate with left-leaning group Public Citizen.
"Cass Sunstein might force them to grapple with this blind spot."
Biden has promised sweeping immigration reform, and a path to citizenship for some 11 million people already living in the U.S. illegally. His immigration-friendly position, however, has helped contribute to the ongoing crisis of migrants swarming the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sunstein, an author, was teaching administrative law at Harvard Law School when he joined the administration alongside his wife, U.S. Agency for International Development Director Samantha Power.
"The Biden Homeland Security Department is facing a set of challenges that are extremely well-suited to complicated law school final exams," said Jeff Hauser, executive director of The Revolving Door Project.
"So the idea that you might need an administrative law expertise at Homeland Security makes complete sense."
Hauser was among progressives unhappy with Sunstein's OIRA stint, defined in large part by delays that held up needed regulation — such as a rule requiring backup cameras in cars to prevent child death — and lengthy weighing of the financial pros and cons of a regulation.
However, a review of Sunstein's time at OIRA 2009-2012 shows his office processed rules a few days faster than the 60-day average across administrations.
Some progressives also view Sunstein as a moderate Democrat too eager to consider input from the right.
Sunstein and his staff are trying to examine and unwind overlapping DHS internal directives and guidance to help carry out its policies under the Trump administration.
A key to undoing Trump-era rules will be thorough reviews of regulations, particularly any that didn’t meet the letter of the law or those where benefits did not outweigh costs.
Some such issues already are being addressed in court, where many Trump regulations have been blocked because they did not meet the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act.
"One of the problems the Trump administration had in trying to roll back the Obama agenda was that they were not careful," said Stuart Shapiro, a regulatory law professor at Rutgers University.
"They tried to do things too quickly, and they got reversed time and time again. So putting Sunstein at DHS is saying, 'We're not going to make the same mistakes in trying to roll back the Trump agenda that Trump made in trying to roll back the Obama agenda."
In a statement to The Hill, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called Sunstein "the nation's foremost regulatory expert."
"Cass has already been an invaluable asset as we ensure that all of the rules that DHS issues are based on evidence, consistent with the law, and best serve our nation," Mayorkas said.