President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued multiple executive actions on immigration that would begin the process of suspending travel visas for inhabitants of many Muslim-majority countries and building a wall on the United States–Mexico border.
Trump signed the executive orders at a ceremony held at the Department of Homeland Security in honor of DHS Secretary John Kelly. In attendance were members of the National Border Patrol Council and the National ICE Council, two unions that represent the chief law enforcement agencies of DHS.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” said Trump.
Trump said the orders would save “thousands” of lives, “millions” of jobs, and “billions” of dollars.
The president also said that the executive orders would call for the hiring of 5,000 more border patrol officers and triple the size of the current Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) workforce.
“For too long, the officers and agents of this agency have not been allowed to do your jobs,” Trump said. “You know that, right? Do you know that?”
Two executive orders focused on undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and border security, and a third executive order focused on terrorist attacks from foreign nations and vetting procedures for new immigrants to the United States.
Trump’s campaign promise to restore “law and order” to the U.S. by banning immigration from Muslim countries, ramping up vetting procedures, dismantling the Syrian refugee program, and deporting undocumented immigrants stood out as one of the most memorable and polarizing aspects of his campaign.
The Associated Press reported that a draft they obtained of the executive order would ban visas from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
One executive order would require Secretary Kelly—in conjunction with the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence—to determine which countries have visa screening standards that are up to U.S. standards. The agencies will then submit to the White House a list of countries for which the U.S. will stop issuing visas. The executive order allows DHS to add additional countries to this list as they deem necessary.
The same executive order also temporarily halts the admission of Syrian refugees—and in fact, all refugees—to the U.S. It calls for the secretary of state to dismantle the U.S. Refugee Assistance Program for 120 days until both DHS and State can review current vetting procedures.
Critics of Trump’s stance on Syrian refugees say that his assumption that vetting procedures for Syrian refugees are lagging is false.
“Of all the categories of persons entering the U.S., these refugees are the single most heavily screened and vetted,” Jana Mason, a senior adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told Time.
Federal agents are currently investigating dozens of Syrian refugees they expect may have slipped through the vetting procedure’s cracks in 2015, reported the Los Angeles Times, hours before Trump came on stage to announce the executive orders.
The second group of executive orders would focus on immigration on the U.S.–Mexico border. It would require the DHS secretary to immediately begin construction of a wall on America’s southern border.
Trump told ABC News host David Muir that construction will begin within “months” and that Mexico will repay “100 percent” of any U.S. funds spent on the wall.
President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to meet with Trump on Jan. 31; however, Nieto faces domestic pressure to cancel the meeting. The Trump administration is currently looking at plans to help Mexico build a wall along its border with Guatemala to block out Central American refugees. The Mexican government has already embarked on mass deportations of Central Americans fleeing drug cartels in their countries.
The executive order would also require the federal government to halt funding for Sanctuary Cities, which would relieve local law enforcement of the burden of actively hunting down undocumented immigrants in addition to other types of law enforcement.
More than 400 cities across the nation have some sort of sanctuary policy, according to the Los Angeles Times.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stressed at Wednesday’s press briefing that Trump would prioritize deporting criminals and “those who wish to do us harm” first.
“The president understand the magnitude of this problem. He’s a family man. He has a huge heart. He understands the significance of this problem,” said Spicer.
Spicer promised that deporting minors who are here in the United States would come later. “But he’s going to work through it with his team in a very humane way,” Spicer added.
Boston Mayor J. Walsh said at a press conference on Wednesday that he was “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s immigration executive orders. He said he would use “all of my power within lawful means” to protect Boston residents.
At 4 p.m., I will hold a press conference on President Trump's executive orders on immigration. pic.twitter.com/R6ID9MBtmd
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) January 25, 2017
Many California cities have vowed not to buck down to Trump’s demands to detain illegal immigrants, but vast uncertainty lays ahead to the extent of how long they would be able to hold out. Several major cities would lose millions of dollars in federal funding.
In a statement, an executive at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned Trump’s border wall as a “multi-billion-dollar monument to racism” and said the wall and the temporary refugee ban “flies in the face of the American values of religious and ethnic inclusion that we all hold dear.”
“We must address the issue of terrorism based on evidence and hard data, not based on faith, race or national origin,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
Awad called the resistance from leaders of sanctuary cities “encouraging,” adding that “many local elected officials and leaders are standing up for their neighbors of all faiths and backgrounds by rejecting Islamophobia and racism.”