A video is floating around Twitter, with the provocative caption that Sally Yates “bodied” Ted Cruz, whatever that means. No, she didn’t. Read the entire exchange, rather than a 1 minute clip out of context.
First, Cruz asks:
CRUZ: Well, are you familiar with 8 USC Section 1182?
YATES: Not off the top of my head, no.
Of course she knows Section 1182, as a moment later she tries to stump Cruz by citing 1152. She’s playing dumb.
In any event, Cruz asks about Section 1182:
CRUZ: Well, it — it — it is the binding statutory authority for the executive order that you refused to implement, and that led to your termination. So it — it certainly is a relevant and not a terribly obscure statute.
By the express text of the statute, it says, quote, “whenever the president finds that entry of any alien or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interest 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 non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.”
Would you agree that is broad statutory authorization?
Yates replied, as I noted above, by quoting from 8 USC 1152(a)(1)(A).
YATES: I would, and I am familiar with that. And I’m also familiar with an additional provision of the INA that says no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against an issuance of a visa because of race, nationality or place of birth, that I believe was promulgated after the statute that you just quoted.
And that’s been part of the discussion with the courts, with respect to the INA, is whether this more specific statute trumps the first one that you just described.
But she didn’t quote the entire provision, which provides:
Except as specifically provided in paragraph (2) and in sections 1101(a)(27), 1151(b)(2)(A)(i), and 1153 of this title, no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.
I emphasized “immigrant visa” because it is important. Non-immigrant visas are not subject to this provision. Whether or not you accept my general premise that “entry” and “visas” are different concepts, Yates’s recitation of the statute was misleading. Notwithstanding the provision as applied to immigrant visas, nothing in the statute prevents the government from discriminating with respect to non-immigrant visas.
But that wasn’t Yates’s real point. She continued:
YATES: But my concern was not an INA concern here. It, rather, was a constitutional concern, whether or not this — the executive order here violated the Constitution, specifically with the establishment clause and equal protection and due process.
She continued that notwithstanding OLC’s approval, she still found it “unlawful”:
YATES: And I also, in that same directive, Senator, said that I was not convinced it was lawful. I also made the point that the office of — OLC looks purely at the face of the document and, again, makes a determination as to whether there is some set of circumstances under which some portion of that E.O. would be enforceable, would be lawful.
They, importantly, do not look outside the face of the document. And in this particular instance, particularly where we were talking about a fundamental issue of religious freedom — not the interpretation of some arcane statute, but religious freedom — it was appropriate for us to look at the intent behind the president’s actions, and the intent is laid in and out his statements.