President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to start building a U.S.-Mexico border wall and institute a crackdown on immigration, in the first of a series of measures expected this week.
Trump signed the actions during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security, where he said, "A nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders."
The order for the wall instructs agencies to erect "a large physical barrier on the southern border."
Others seek to slash immigration and stiffen penalties for undocumented people.
The Hill reports:
The other order deals with immigration enforcement and ends the "catch and release" policy that quickly returned border crossers back to Mexico instead of arresting and processing them for deportation. The policy was a fixture of the Bush administration and was later reinstated on an informal basis by former President Barack Obama.
"Federal agents are going to unapologetically enforce the law, no ifs, ands or buts," [White House Press Secretary Sean] Spicer said.
The immigration actions also seek to withhold visas from countries to make sure they take back people in the U.S. illegally who are found to have broken U.S. laws. It would also strip federal grants from "sanctuary" cities and states that do not enforce federal immigration laws.
"We're going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants," Spicer said.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, called the border wall plan "incoherent and a monumental waste of taxpayer money."
United Farm Workers president Arturo S. Rodriguez noted that "U.S. Department of Labor surveys show the majority of U.S. farm workers are undocumented...So if today’s executive orders from Donald Trump signal the beginning of fulfilling his oft-repeated campaign pledge to deport the undocumented, then who is going to feed America?"
"Who is going to feed the guests at Trump hotels and golf courses?" Rodriguez said. "Who is going to feed Donald Trump?"
Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said the new policies were "fueled by hate and contradict what America is all about."
César J. Blanco, political director of the Latino Victory Project, said, "The executive actions on immigration announced by President Trump today are simply un-American. President Trump's executive actions go against the principles and values that our country was founded on and will only tear families apart. These executive actions seem to be part of his efforts to delegitimize our democracy and our values. We must respond to his actions by defending Latinos and all minorities from threats against our humanity."
The actions also include a crackdown on sanctuary cities. Erik Andiola, political director of Our Revolution, said Trump's targeting of these cities presents "an ultimatum: either states comply with federal immigration enforcement officials who want to tear families apart, or they risk losing critical funding for much-needed services. This is a direct attack on progressive states and the policies they support. This moment requires that we come together to protect those who are most vulnerable under Trump's administration."
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Blanco continued: "Let's pause and take a moment to think of how history will judge these executive actions. Now is the time for allies to cast aside the privilege of silence and inaction, to stand with Latinos, Muslims, refugees, immigrants of all walks of life, and minorities fearful for their lives. Inaction has led to some of the darkest moments in our history, and we know that silence will protect no one. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: 'In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'"
President Donald Trump on Wednesday will start signing a series of executive orders to fund construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, slash immigration, and temporarily ban refugees from Syria and six other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The wall order—which will also crack down on sanctuary cities and hire 5,000 more border agents—is expected to come Wednesday, with the others to be rolled out the rest of the week.
The refugee ban will instruct the U.S. to stop issuing visas to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, while the immigration order will "target legal immigrants as early as this week...by halting a decades-old program that grants refuge to the world's most vulnerable people as he begins the process of drastically curtailing it and enhancing screening procedures," the New York Times reported.
While the president claims the measures are part of a national security policy, immigrant and refugee rights groups contend that they are nothing more than the institutionalization of Trump's infamously xenophobic campaign.
"We are aware that these policies serve to demonize and target immigrant communities, as well as erode the hard fought-for protections that we have won over the years," said Rosi Carrasco of the Chicago-based Organized Communities Against Deportations.
"We are worried that these executive orders also serve as a stepping-stone for more troubling policies that Trump has promised, including registries, raids, and deportations of Arab, Muslim, South Asian, African, and Latinx immigrants," Carrasco said.
"This will not stand. The American people are better than this."
—National Iranian American Council
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has estimated that a border wall would cost up to $15 billion to build. Despite Trump's order, Congress would need to approve any funding for the 1,954-mile long project.
Still, the actions seem to confirm that Trump's campaign promises, which frequently emboldened election rally-goers to chant "build the wall," are setting a xenophobic, Islamophobic tone for the new administration.
"Donald Trump is making good on the most shameful and discriminatory promises he made on the campaign trail. He called for a Muslim ban and is now taking the first steps to implement one. This will not stand. The American people are better than this," said the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). "This is dangerous as it pits Americans against Americans while undermining the very principles of inclusivity and tolerance that define America. We will not be silent and will use every resource at our disposal to fight these shameful actions and protect the values and people who make America great."
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, also said, "With the Trump administration threatening to repeal federal enforcement priorities and turn local law enforcement into immigration agents, we know that local government will lead the way in creating policies that place community trust and public safety ahead of fear-mongering and attacks on hard-working immigrant families."
Jewish Voice for Peace also pledged to "defend and fight alongside" communities under attack.
"Decades of racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic policies and discourses around national security, the War on Terror, and immigration have laid the groundwork for this nightmare set of policies designed to target, profile, surveil, and ban people due to their religion, race, national origin, or legal status," the group said in a statement Wednesday.
Other actions to come this week are expected to include "reviewing whether to resume the once-secret 'black site' detention program; keep open the prison at Guantánamo Bay; and designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization," according to the New York Times.
The orders come as Trump prepares to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.