Today, keeping his promise to the American people, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to begin construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and block federal grants from immigrant-protecting “sanctuary cities.”
“Beginning today the United States of America gets back control of its borders,” Trump declared during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. “We are going to save lives on both sides of the border.”
President Trump’s actions are a fulfillment of a campaign pledge to enact hard-line immigration measures to protect the nation, including the construction of a wall paid for by Mexico. With the families of Americans killed by people living in the U.S. illegally sitting in the audience, Trump said, “When it comes to public safety, there is no place for politics.”
Although Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has insisted his country will not pay for a wall, President Trump’s newly proposed trade tariffs and taxes suggest that Mexico will actually pay for the wall. The Mexican President is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House next week to discuss the deal.
Congressional aides say there is about $100 million of unspent appropriations in the Department of Homeland Security account for border security, fencing and infrastructure. That would allow planning efforts to get started.
Trump has insisted many times the border structure will be a wall. The order he signed referred to “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier.”
President Trump’s orders also call for hiring 5,000 additional border patrol agents, though the increase is subject to congressional approval. He also moved to end what Republicans have labeled a catch-and-release system at the border. Currently, some immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are released and given notices to report back to immigration officials at a later date.
Later in the week, Trump is expected to sign orders restricting the flow of refugees into the United States. His current proposal includes at least a four-month halt on all refugee admissions, as well as a temporary ban on people coming from some Muslim-majority countries, according to a source from a public policy organization that monitors refugee issues.
To build the wall, the president is envoking a 2006 law that authorized several hundred miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile frontier. That bill led to the construction of about 700 miles of various kinds of fencing designed to block both vehicles and pedestrians.
The Secure Fence Act was signed by then-President George W. Bush, and the majority of that fencing in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California was built before he left office.
There is also likely to be an exception for those fleeing religious persecution if their religion is a minority in their country. That exception could cover Christians fleeing Muslim-majority nations.
As president, Trump can use an executive order to halt refugee processing. Bush used that same power in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.