WASHINGTON, Jan 25, (Agencies): President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed directives to build a wall along the US border with Mexico and crack down on US cities that shield illegal immigrants, proceeding quickly on sweeping and divisive plans to curb immigration and boost national security. The Republican president is also expected to take steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking the issuing of visas to people from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.
Trump signed two executive orders during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security, one on building a wall along the roughly 2,000- mile (3,200-kms) US-Mexico border and the other to strip federal grant money from “sanctuary” states and cities, often governed by Democrats, that harbor illegal immigrants. In cities such as San Francisco local officials, often Democrats, refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on actions against illegal immigrants. “The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. 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.
On Twitter on Tuesday night, Trump reiterated his promise to build a wall along the roughly 2,000- mile (3,200-kms) US-Mexico border. Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key element of his presidential campaign with supporters often chanting “build the wall” during his rallies. Trump has long said that he will make Mexico pay for the wall, but Mexican officials have forcefully resisted this idea. The cost and nature of the wall have not been made clear. Many Democrats have opposed the plan and could try to thwart any legislation to pay for the construction in the US Congress, although Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives.
The border enforcement order includes plans to hire 5,000 more US Customs and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to slip across the border and to triple the number of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and deport immigrants living in the United States illegally. The Customs and Border Protection agency has struggled to meet its hiring mandate, with a little more than 19,000 agents on the payroll, out of a congressionally mandated 21,000. Trump’s actions could fundamentally change the American stance on immigration, as well as further testing relations with Mexico.
Many Americans view their country with pride as “a nation of immigrants,” and President John Kennedy wrote a book with that title more than half a century ago. But Trump successfully tapped into resentment toward the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States and said during the campaign he would deport them all. Trump, who in announcing his presidential bid in June 2015 accused Mexico of sending rapists and criminals into the United States, has also threatened to slap hefty taxes on companies that produce in Mexico for the US market and to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week. Asked about Trump’s wall, US Republican Senator John McCain said a physical barrier is not enough to secure the border and called for the additional use of observation towers, drones and other technology. “Walls can be easily breached,” McCain, whose home state of Arizona borders Mexico, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. Immigration enforcement away from the border is also expected to be strengthened by seeking an end to “sanctuary cities,” often governed by Democrats, where local officials refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on actions against illegal immigrants. Trump will call for an end to this practice and may instruct the federal government to stop providing certain funds to cities that refuse to comply. Trump is expected to limit the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 50,000 a year, down from 100,000, and to impose a temporary ban on most refugees. A review will be conducted by the Trump administration to determine what screening must occur before travel for citizens from such countries can resume. During the campaign, Trump proposed barring non-US citizen Muslims from entering the United States, which he said would protect Americans from attacks by Islamist militants like those targeting European cities.