In September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, marking the culmination of a promise that Trump made during the campaign (but had on occasion contradicted since then). Arrests for illegal border crossings from Mexico, generally a rough proxy for the number of people attempting to enter the United States, reached their lowest level since 1971, although that is a continuation of a pre-existing trend, and Trump persists in exaggerating the size of the drop.
The raw number of deportations has actually dropped from the end of Barack Obama’s term to the start of Trump’s, but that is in part because of fewer crossings. The Trump administration has ramped up deportations of people already living in the United States, including with some high-profile moves like a nationwide raid on 7-Elevens. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that federal officials are planning a sweeping raid in Northern California intended as a brushback on sanctuary cities.
Trump has not succeeded in repealing Obamacare, a longstanding priority, and after multiple attempts, congressional GOP leaders have demonstrated that they have little stomach for another try any time soon. But the president has managed to gradually erode the law, including a repeal of the individual mandate. Around 3.2 million fewer people have insurance than did at the start of 2017, and a plurality of Republicans in an Economist/YouGov poll said the law had been repealed.
The president has also continued to nominate federal judges at a record clip, and to see them confirmed to the federal bench. He successfully installed Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, as interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, from which perch Mulvaney has moved quickly to dismantle regulations on the financial industry.
Abroad, even as Trump struggles with North Korea policy, strained ties with allies, and a broken relationship with his secretary of state, the president saw ISIS driven from its territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria, in large part due to American fighters and strategy. Trump inherited a fight going well for the U.S. and a strategy on the way to achieving that, as Obama administration alums like to point out, but he saw that strategy through. This doesn’t mean ISIS is no longer a threat, but the end of its territorial claims is a major milestone.
In announcing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem and future plans to move the American embassy there, Trump followed through on a promise made not just by him but by several predecessors, who backtracked once in office. Like most choices in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the move won him both praise and fury.
In August, I argued that while Trump was quietly accomplishing more than was immediately clear, nearly all of his accomplishments dovetailed with traditional priorities of the Republican Party—deregulation, judgeships, and the like—while his own distinctive priorities were stuck in neutral. That remains largely the case, as exemplified by the tax bill, which eschewed any of the populist flourishes for which Trump was labeled distinctive in the past. In his immigration enforcement push, he is matching the rhetoric of many establishment Republicans while going beyond what Republican presidents have been willing to do.