WASHINGTON — President Trump signed a pair of executive orders today to start “immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border” — to be paid by taxpayers first, with reimbursement by Mexico later, the White House said — and to prioritize removal of illegal immigrants who have been convicted or charged with a criminal offense.
The Department of Homeland Security has been ordered to “take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct” the wall “using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control,” according to the executive order on border security.
DHS is further directed to “identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all sources of Federal funds for the planning, designing, and constructing of a physical wall along the southern border” and “project and develop long-term funding requirements for the wall, including preparing Congressional budget requests for the current and upcoming fiscal years.”
A comprehensive border security report is also due to the president within 180 days including “geophysical and topographical aspects of the southern border.”
All government agencies are required to report to the State Department “all sources of direct and indirect Federal aid or assistance to the Government of Mexico on an annual basis over the past five years, including all bilateral and multilateral development aid, economic assistance, humanitarian aid, and military aid” within 30 days.
The order did not get into specifics such as using eminent domain on the two-thirds of border miles along land not owned by the federal government.
Appearing at DHS today along with new Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Trump said the wall “will also help Mexico by deterring illegal immigration from Central America and by disrupting violent cartels networks.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) shot back in a statement that Trump should listen to Kelly, who said at his confirmation hearing “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.”
“The president is launching an effort to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on a costly border wall that will do little to enhance U.S. national security and is opposed by a strong majority of Americans,” Cardin said. “I understand the desire to follow up on campaign rhetoric, but candidate Trump was wrong about building a wall on our border with Mexico, and so is President Trump.”
A Pew Research survey this month found 39 percent calling the construction of a border wall somewhat or very important, while 59 percent of respondents said the wall was not at all important or not too important.
The other executive order targets illegal immigrants for priority deportation who have not only been committed or charged with a crime, but “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” or “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”
It also says sanctuary cities “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.”
Spicer said relevant agencies would “look at funding streams that are going to these cities of federal monies and figure out how we can defund those streams.”
DHS would also “on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
For countries that don’t want to take in deportees, the order says “the Secretary of State shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, ensure that diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.”
Trump said the order “empowers ICE officers to target and remove those who pose a threat to public safety, calls for the hiring of another 5,000 border patrol officers, calls for the tripling of the number of ICE officers — you both do an incredible job, but you need help, you need more.”
The order does not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants Program. “We will have further updates on the rest of the president immigration agenda further in the week… the president understands the magnitude of this problem. He’s a family man, he understands, he has a huge heart and he understands the significance of this problem,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at the daily briefing. “But he’s going to work through it with his team in a very humane way to make sure that he respects the situation that many of these children are in that were brought here.”
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo arrived in Washington today for previously planned talks with the new administration.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has refused to pay for the border wall, said in a Monday speech that Mexico’s policy would be one of “neither confrontation nor submission.” Opposition politicians in the country were pressuring Peña Nieto to cancel a planned meeting with Trump next week.
Spicer said it was Trump’s goal “to get the project started as quickly as possible using existing funds and resources that the department currently has and then to move forward and work with Congress on an appropriation schedule.”
“But you know, again, we’re here at day three,” he said. “It’s an issue that he has brought up several times with Congress in terms of making sure that we understand — that they understand the need to make sure that that’s included in the appropriations process.”
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox responded:
— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) January 25, 2017
On the timing coinciding with meetings with Mexican officials, Spicer said, “I don’t think we generally telegraph to people who are coming to visit what executive orders we’re going to send.”