rump Blocks Syrian Refugees and Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built
WASHINGTON (The New York Times) — President Trump on Wednesday began a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration, ordering the immediate construction of a border wall with Mexico and aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants. He planned additional actions to cut back on legal immigration, including barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
At the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Trump signed a pair of executive orders that paved the way for a border wall and called for a newly expanded force to sweep up immigrants who are in the country illegally. He revived programs that allow the federal government to work with local and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain unauthorized immigrants with criminal records and to share information to help track and deport them.
He also planned to clamp down on legal immigration in another action expected as early as Thursday. An eight-page draft of that executive order, obtained by The New York Times, would indefinitely block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and bar all refugees from the rest of the world for at least 120 days.
When the refugee program resumes, it would be much smaller, with the total number of refugees resettled in the United States this year more than halved, to 50,000 from 110,000.
It would also suspend any immigration for at least 30 days from a number of predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — while the government toughened its already stringent screening procedures to weed out potential terrorists.
Taken together, the moves would turn the full weight of the federal government to fortifying the United States border, rounding up some of the 11 million people who are in the country illegally and targeting refugees, who are often among the world’s most vulnerable people. It is an aggressive use of presidential power that follows through on the nationalistic vision Mr. Trump presented during his presidential campaign.
“A nation without border is not a nation,” Mr. Trump said at the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, where he signed the orders alongside the newly sworn in secretary, John F. Kelly. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its border.”
The plans are a sharp break with former President Barack Obama’s approach and what was once a bipartisan consensus to devise a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s illegal immigrants. Mr. Obama, however, angered many immigrant groups for deporting millions of unauthorized workers, largely during his first term.
But Mr. Trump, whose campaign rallies were filled with chants from his supporters of “build the wall,” has vowed to go much further. He has often described unauthorized immigrants as criminals who must be found and forcibly removed from the United States, as he did again on Wednesday.
“We are going to get the bad ones out — the criminals and the drug dealers and gangs and gang members,” Mr. Trump said. “The day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc. We are going to get them out, and we are going to get them out fast.”
The president had invited the families of people killed by unauthorized immigrants to watch him sign the orders alongside Homeland Security employees, and he asked each of them to stand in turn, telling of the deaths of their relatives that he said had inspired his policies.
“We hear you, we see you, and you will never, ever be ignored again,” Mr. Trump said, contending that they had been “victimized by open border.”
The immigration orders drew furious condemnation from civil rights and religious groups as well as immigrant advocacy organizations. The groups described them as meanspirited, counterproductive and expensive and said the new policies would raise constitutional concerns while undermining the American tradition of welcoming people from around the world.
“They’re setting out to unleash this deportation force on steroids, and local police will be able to run wild, so we’re tremendously concerned about the impact that could have on immigrants and families across the country,” said Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “After today’s announcement, the fear quotient is going to go up exponentially.”
Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigration advocacy group, said Mr. Trump was “ wasting no time taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.” She called the orders “a dramatic, radical and extreme assault on immigrants and the values of our country.”
The orders also rankled officials in countries around the world. President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, who had planned to travel to Washington next week to meet with Mr. Trump, let it be known that he was considering canceling his trip, senior Mexican officials said.
Mr. Trump has claimed that Mexico would ultimately pay for the wall, but officials there have repeatedly insisted they have no intention of doing so.
But conservative organizations in the United States and some Republican lawmakers praised Mr. Trump’s moves, saying they would usher in overdue enforcement of crucial homeland security laws that Mr. Obama had refused to carry out.
The order would also indefinitely block all refugees from Syria.
“This looks like a return to enforcing the immigration laws, which is something that President Obama strayed from and has not been prioritized in a very long time,” said Tommy Binion, the director of policy outreach at the conservative-aligned Heritage Foundation. “To have President Trump focus on the problems immigration is bringing us as a nation is a relief. Finally, we have a government that recognizes the tragedies that we’re facing.”
Mr. Trump will not be able to accomplish the goals laid out in the immigration orders by himself. Congress would have to appropriate new funding for the construction of a wall, which some have estimated could cost tens of billions of dollars. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump directed federal agencies to use existing funds as a start to the wall and formally called for the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional immigration officers.
The order would threaten the nation’s roughly three dozen sanctuary cities — jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal authorities seeking to detain unauthorized immigrants — with losing federal grant money if they do not comply with such requests.
At the same time, Mr. Trump is reviving a program called Secure Communities, ended by the Obama administration, in which federal officials use digital fingerprints shared by local law enforcement departments to find and deport immigrants who commit crimes.
The order also includes a section that directs federal agencies to adjust their privacy policies to exclude unauthorized immigrants, in effect allowing the sharing of their personal identifying information, which could be used to track and apprehend them.
“With today’s sweeping and constitutionally suspect executive actions, the president is turning his back on both our history and our values as a proud nation of immigrants,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader. “Wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a border wall Mexico will never pay for, and punishing cities that do not want their local police forces forced to serve as President Trump’s deportation dragnet does nothing to fix our immigration system or keep Americans safe.”
The order on refugees is in line with a Muslim ban that Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign, though it does not single out any particular religion. It orders the secretary of state and the secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize those who are persecuted members of religious minorities, essentially ensuring that Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries would be at the top of the list.
“In order to protect Americans,” the order states, “we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”
It says that for the time being, admitting anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen is “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”