Trump Orders 'Immediate' Start to Border Wall, Criminal Deportations

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."