Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built and Is Expected to Block Syrian Refugees

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an order on Wednesday to start building a border wall with Mexico and was planning to indefinitely block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and to institute a temporary halt on all refugees from the rest of the world.

The refugee policies are part of an executive order he is expected to issue as soon as Thursday, according to an eight-page document, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The order would require tougher vetting of foreigners fleeing persecution and place a month long ban on allowing any person into the United States from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen. Refugee admissions would be halted for 120 days while a review of screening procedures is completed. When it resumes, the program would be far smaller, with the total number of refugees resettled in the United States this year more than halved, to 50,000 from 110,000.

White House officials declined to comment on the forthcoming plan, which emerged as Mr. Trump announced the construction of his long-promised Mexican border wall and aggressive new measures intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants inside the United States.

Through a pair of executive orders he signed at the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Trump was laying out a new vision for fortifying the nation’s borders and sharply increasing efforts to round up and remove some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States — including by enlisting state and local officials to track and apprehend them.

“Federal agencies are going to unapologetically enforce the law — no ifs, ands or buts,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary. “The American people get the final say who can and cannot enter our nation.”

The plans were a stark break with former President Barack Obama’s approach and what was once a bipartisan consensus to devise a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s undocumented immigrants. Mr. Trump, whose campaign rallies featured chants of “build the wall,” has instead described many undocumented immigrants as criminals who must be found and forcibly removed from the United States.

“They’re setting out to unleash this deportation force on steroids, and local police will be able to run wild, so we’re tremendously concerned about the impact that could have on immigrants and families across the country,” said Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “After today’s announcement, the fear quotient is going to go up exponentially.”

Until the refugee orders are signed, it is possible the language could change.

The order on refugees is also in line with a Muslim ban that Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign, though it does not single out any particular religion in its text. It orders the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security to prioritize those who are persecuted members of religious minorities, effectively ensuring that Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries would be at the top of the list.

“In order to protect Americans,” the order states, “we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”

It says that for the time being, admitting anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen is “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

FILE PHOTO: People in Mexico wave at U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border fence near San Diego, California, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Trump moves ahead with wall, puts stamp on U.S. immigration, security policy

President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered construction of a U.S.-Mexican border wall and punishment for cities shielding illegal immigrants while mulling restoring a CIA secret detention program as he launched broad but divisive plans to reshape U.S. immigration and national security policy.

A draft executive order seen by Reuters that Trump is expected to sign in the coming days would block the entry of refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen while permanent rules are studied.

Less than a week into his presidency, Trump has moved aggressively to put his stamp on a range of policies, including steps to gut the healthcare system devised by his predecessor, and make clear that as president he is not turning toward more moderate positions than he took as a candidate.

His directives on Wednesday signaled a tough action toward the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States, most from Latin America, whom he already has threatened to deport.

In a move critics called a slight to the integrity of American democracy, Trump also said on Wednesday he would seek a "major investigation" into what he believes was voter fraud in the November election, despite overwhelming consensus among state officials, election experts and politicians that it is rare in the United States.

"We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States," Trump told an audience that included relatives of people killed by illegal immigrants at the Department of Homeland Security after signing two executive orders.

The directives ordered the construction of a multibillion-dollar wall along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexico border, moved to strip federal funding from "sanctuary" states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants, and expanded the force of American immigration agents.

His plans prompted an outcry from immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an enemy, not an ally, and soiling America's historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants of all stripes.

"The border wall is about political theater at the expense of civil liberties," said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition immigrant advocacy group.

"It is not national security policy. Border communities are among the safest in the nation, and patrolling them with tens of thousands of heavily armed, poorly trained, unaccountable agents puts lives at risks. This will turn these communities into de facto military zones," Ramirez said.

The White House said the wall would stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration into the United States.

"We are in the middle of a crisis on our southern border: The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central America is harming both Mexico and the United States," Trump said, adding: "A nation without borders is not a nation."

Trump is also expected to order a review that could lead to bringing back a CIA program for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas "black site" prisons where interrogation techniques often condemned as torture were used during former Republican President George W. Bush's administration, two U.S. officials said.

Trump's actions could further test relations with Mexico.

The wall plan has infuriated Mexicans. Trump's policies, including his demand that the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada be renegotiated or scrapped, have put Mexico's government on the defensive. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.

Amid media reports that Pena Nieto was considering canceling his Trump visit over the wall announcement, some opposition Mexican politicians urged him to pull out.

FEDERAL FUNDING

Officials in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants. Billions of dollars in federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could be at risk under Trump's move.

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said construction on the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the United States "100 percent" of the costs. Mexican officials have said they will not pay for the wall.

Th White House said Trump's goal was to get the wall started as quickly as possible using existing government funds and then work with the Republican-led Congress on further appropriations.

Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key element of his presidential campaign, with supporters at his rallies often chanting: "Build the wall."

The cost, nature and extent of the wall remain unclear. Trump last year put the cost at "probably $8 billion," although other estimates are higher, and he said the wall would span 1,000 miles (1,600 km) because of the terrain of the border.

Trump's directives would end the practice known by critics as "catch and release" in which authorities apprehend illegal immigrants on U.S. territory but do not immediately detain or deport them.

The directives also include hiring 5,000 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to slip across the border and tripling the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and deport immigrants living in the United States illegally.

They also create more detention space for illegal immigrants along the southern border to make it easier to detain and deport them.

The intent of the proposals regarding refugees and immigrants from the seven Muslim-majority nations is to head off Islamist violence in the United States.

The draft directive on immigration also suspends the U.S. refugee program for four months while determining whether permanent changes to the system are needed.

"These orders are a disturbing confirmation of Islamophobic and un-American policy proposals made during the presidential election campaign," Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad said.

On the campaign trail, Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, which he said would protect Americans from jihadist attacks like those targeting European cities. He later said the restrictions would target countries known to be sources of terrorism.


Trump orders construction of border wall, boosts deportation force

President Donald Trump on Wednesday started to reshape US immigration enforcement policies via executive action, taking his first steps toward fulfilling some of the most contentious pledges that defined his campaign -- building a border wall and speeding the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Trump signed two executive orders directing the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, boosting border patrol forces and increasing the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations. The orders also call for stripping sanctuary cities of federal grant funding and announced sweeping new criteria that could make many more undocumented immigrants priorities for deportation.

"Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders," Trump told employees of the Department of Homeland Security at the department's headquarters in Washington.

But while Trump directed the "immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border," the executive orders do not cover the cost of the wall. Trump has repeatedly promised that Mexico will reimburse US taxpayers for the construction costs, a suggestion Mexican officials have rejected out of hand.

The president's moves sent alarm bells ringing in immigrant activist circles, where questions had continued to swirl about whether Trump would truly implement many of the hard-line immigration policies he articulated during his campaign.

Trump also indicated he does not need Congress to pass new legislation to implement the border control and immigration reform agenda he outlined during his campaign for president, saying he would "work within the existing system and framework."

"We do not need new laws," Trump said soon after signing the two executive orders.

The executive orders Trump signed Wednesday call for boosting the ranks of Border Patrol forces by an additional 5,000 agents as well as for 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to carry out deportations. The orders noted that the increases were subject to Congress's appropriation of sufficient funds.

Building the wall
Construction of the wall could begin in months, but planning for the massive project is "starting immediately," Trump said Wednesday in an interview with ABC News.

Trump confirmed his plans to build the wall with federal funds and then seek reimbursement from Mexico, an idea Mexico has rejected. But negotiations, he said, would begin "relatively soon."

"I'm telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form," Trump said.

Trump also for the first time appeared to articulate on Wednesday the argument he might make to Mexican officials as he looks to compel them to pay for the wall.

Trump stressed Wednesday that the wall would "help Mexico" by deterring illegal immigration from countries further South through Mexico.
"We are going to stabilize on both sides of the border and we also understand that a strong and healthy economy in Mexico is very good for the United States," Trump said.

Trump erases doubt about commitment to hardline policies
Trump's actions leave little doubt about whether his immigration policies as president would differ from his campaign rhetoric.

There remained little question, for example, about whether Trump would push to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants. His increases in the number of border patrol and immigration officers -- adding 10,000 immigration officers to an ICE workforce of just 20,000 -- raised the specter of Trump's campaign promise of mass deportations.

One of Trump's executive actions was expected to call for tripling "enforcement and removal operations/agents" of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is charged with arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants living in the US. The order also calls for a 5,000-person increase in Customs and Border Protection personnel.

Marielena HincapiƩ, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, called Trump's actions Wednesday "extremist, ineffective and expensive" and accused the president of using lies about immigrants to drive US policy.

"Trump is taking a wrecking ball to our immigration system. It shouldn't come as a surprise that chaos and destruction will be the outcome," HincapiƩ said, adding that her organization has already drafted legal papers to challenge Trump's moves.

And Greisa Martinez, advocacy director at the United We Dream Network, argued that Trump's moves "lay the groundwork for mass deportation."

Trump's executive orders on Wednesday did not address those of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, which safeguard undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children or who are parents of lawful US residents from deportation. Trump during his campaign signaled he would repeal those orders.

New criteria for deportation priorities
Trump also outlined new criteria for determining which undocumented immigrants should be prioritized for deportation, putting hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions more people at the top of the federal government's list of people to deport.

Any undocumented immigrant convicted or simply charged with a crime that hasn't been adjudicated could be deported under the Trump administration's new policy.

Under Obama, only undocumented immigrants convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanor were considered priorities for deportation.

New priorities for deportation under Trump also include any undocumented immigrants who abuse public benefits, or simply those considered "a risk to public safety or national security... in the judgment of an immigration officer" -- an entirely open-ended premise.

Trump's hardline immigration rhetoric and policy proposals during the campaign often put him at odds not only with Democrats but with many in his own party who called his proposal to build a wall on the US-Mexico border unnecessary and his calls to deport all undocumented immigrants cruel and unrealistic.

Trump persevered in his hardline rhetoric throughout the campaign, resisting efforts to pivot to a more moderate stance on the issue in the general election despite calls to soften his rhetoric.

Now, his actions on Wednesday took a big first step toward satisfying his political base of support that hitched to his campaign amid Trump's bold promises of building a wall, deporting undocumented immigrants and in the process creating a safer country, despite a total lack of evidence tying undocumented immigrants to higher crime rates.

Trump catapulted his campaign into controversy and relevance with his announcement speech in June 2015, in which he pledged some of the hardline immigration policies he was set to enact and decried undocumented immigrants as criminals and "rapists." Trump never apologized for those comments.

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