Construction of wall and enhanced border security among items included in executive orders
A PAIR of executive orders issued on Wednesday, January 25 instruct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enact sweeping changes to immigration policy which had been pledged during the campaign of recently sworn-in President Donald Trump.
The documents direct DHS Secretary John F. Kelly to immediately begin planning the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and authorize the allocation of whatever federal funds needed for its design and construction.
Although American tax dollars will fund the initial costs of the border wall, Trump has stood by his assertion that the Mexican government will ultimately foot the bill for the project.
“There will be payment,” Trump told ABC News in an interview on Wednesday. “It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form.”
The DHS is also under orders to construct additional immigration detention facilities and hire 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and 5,000 border patrol agents in order to effect “complete operational control of the southern border.”
The department must also conduct and submit a study regarding the state of border security within the next 180 days.
The president had previously said that he also plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program initiated by former President Barack Obama, which confers protection from deportation to certain undocumented students who were brought into the country by their families. Wednesday’s directives issued to the DHS, however, did not address the future of that program.
The administration will prioritize the removal of individuals who have been convicted of any criminal offense, defendants in unresolved criminal cases, people who have “abused” public benefits, committed fraud, and those who might otherwise pose a threat to public safety or national security.
“Today’s action fulfills a key promise he made to American families…that their government will protect them, not deportable criminal aliens,” wrote representatives of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a border control advocacy group, in a statement released on Wednesday.
FAIR and other supporters of the president’s actions say these are the first steps in regaining control over the country’s borders.
Other portions in the executive order would end the distribution of visas to people from countries that refuse to accept deported residents and place greater government oversight on decisions to admit asylum seekers.
Executive agencies have also been instructed to submit a review of all U.S. aid given to Mexico over the past five years.
Further, the president’s orders call on relevant institutions to “ensure the faithful execution” of immigration laws, and includes provisions to withhold federal funds from local governments that refuse to comply.
Democrats and immigrants right advocates accuse the president of fearmongering by scapegoating people fleeing economic turmoil, political upheaval or violence.
“I think this is the first step in what will be a pattern from the Trump administration of putting tough talk ahead of smart, thoughtful immigration policy,” wrote Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) in a statement responding to the president’s orders on Wednesday.
Trump is expected to issue additional orders later this week that will halt the flow of refugees into the country and place a moratorium on visas issued to people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, according to the Associated Press.
Proponents of tighter border security say such measures are needed in light of past incidents of jihadist-inspired terrorism. However, critics of the president’s policies fear that he is normalizing xenophobia.
“It’s apparent that anti-immigrant vitriol from the campaign is now coming to life,” wrote the director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Melissa Rodgers. “These executive orders go against traditional American values of welcoming new immigrants and do considerable harm to our country and the people who call America home.”
In anticipation of such directives, a number of Democratic lawmakers at all levels of government have publicly vowed to resist the President’s efforts to ramp up deportation efforts.
Some of the most vocal opposition has come from legislators in California, which is home to over 3 million of the nation’s roughly 11 million undocumented residents.
Prior to Trump’s signing of the executive orders, Governor Jerry Brown has insisted that the staunchly Democratic state would continue to shield immigrants from deportation, as previously reported by the Asian Journal.
“Let me be clear, we will defend everybody, every man, woman and child who’s come here for a better life and contributed to the well-being of the state,” said Brown during his state of the State address on Tuesday, January 24.