The biggest piece of Trump’s first executive order was his long-promised wall on the border with Mexico.
The measure instructs the homeland security secretary to take “steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border,” in order to “achieve complete operational control of the southern border.”
The measure includes instructions to figure out funding, including what federal money sources exist now and what the administration will need to request in congressional appropriations later.
The order also calls for a study within six months on securing the southern border.
Trump orders construction of the wall
Trump has said Mexico will pay for the wall, and stood by that Wednesday, saying he would get reimbursement after building the wall with federal funds. Negotiations, he said, would begin “relatively soon.”
“I’m telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form,” Trump said. “We are going to stabilize on both sides of the border and we also understand that a strong and healthy economy in Mexico is very good for the United States.”
The order directed agencies to conduct an analysis of all federal aid to Mexico over the past five years — previewing Trump’s vision for gaining leverage over the neighboring country.
But the order also seemed to indicate that despite Trump repeatedly insisting he meant a physical wall, there was wiggle room.
“‘Wall’ shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier,” the order said in its definitions.
Both orders also sought to beef up enforcement agencies in terms of staffing.
The border security order instructed the Department of Homeland Security to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, and the other order focused on security of the interior of the nation seeks the addition of 10,000 immigration officers.
Both, however, are “subject to available appropriations,” meaning the agency will need to find funds or Congress will need to appropriate them.
The order seeks to get Border Patrol reinforcements to stations “as soon as is practicable.”
The order also specifies that the additional immigration officers should be trained to perform duties including interrogating, detaining, arresting and searching for people believed to be non-citizens or non-nationals.
The order on border security signals there could be significant efforts to put more immigrants behind bars if they’re caught illegally crossing the border, or if they’re in deportation proceedings.
The order instructs the secretary of homeland security to construct or establish detention facilities near the border and staff them with asylum officers and immigration judges.
It’s unclear how such measures would be funded.
Right now, Congress has appropriated funding for about 34,000 beds for immigrant detention — many of which are in facilities operated by private companies across the country. Meanwhile more than half a million cases are pending in immigration court.
Wednesday’s order directs the secretary of homeland security to “allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control or establish contracts to construct, operate or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.”
It’s likely private prison companies, which saw their stock go up after Trump’s election, will be involved.
End ‘catch and release’
One of the touted elements of the orders is ending what Trump calls “catch and release,” in essence guaranteeing immigrants who could be removed from the country are continuously detained and not let free based on humanitarian concerns.
“It is the policy of the executive branch to end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions currently used to prevent the lawful removal of removable aliens,” the order states.
The section is heavily technical, but orders the homeland security secretary to ensure that allowances in US immigration law to grant individuals asylum or parole based on concerns about persecution in their home country are not “exploited” to block deportations.
The provisions should only be used “when an individual demonstrates urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit derived from such parole,” the order states.
This portion of the order also notes that unaccompanied children detained at the border receive care and are sent back to their home nations as appropriate.
A flood of unaccompanied children at the border created a crisis in recent years, as detention facilities were unable to humanely accommodate high numbers. The increased influx of minors crossing the border without adults were largely fleeing violence in Central America.
Trump’s “interior” security order takes aim at so-called sanctuary jurisdictions — cities, states and other entities that through a range of policies shield undocumented immigrants from federal law enforcement.
The order will “strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants,” according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer in his daily briefing.
What are sanctuary cities and can they be defunded?
The order declares that entities labeled “sanctuary jurisdictions” by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security will be “not eligible” for federal grants, and it directs the Office of Management and Budget to compile federal grant money currently going to sanctuary jurisdictions.
The order appears to apply mostly to future federal grants, though after OMB’s review, Spicer explained that the funding identified could be taken away.
While the administration likely can’t cut off all federal funding, as much of it is disbursed through Congress, the President could put some pressure on cities this way.
Any attempts to enact this provision will almost certainly face a legal challenge — past court rulings have weighed in on the government stripping funds from states and cities to enforce policies and have found the measures must relate to the policy in question, must promote the general welfare and cannot be coercive.
Trump’s been saying he wants to prioritize deporting criminals for months. That’s no surprise; so did President Barack Obama. But Trump’s executive order Wednesday took a sweeping approach to defining “criminal.”
The “interior” order lays out new enforcement priorities for the government, which go far beyond what the Obama administration followed.
The order says the priority will be removing deportable immigrants who “have been convicted of any criminal offense; have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved; have 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; have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Based on the wording of the executive order, a criminal could include someone who’s charged with — but not actually convicted — of a crime.
The last provisions apparently include anyone who an immigration official feels endangers “public safety or national security,” even if that person doesn’t face charges — giving wide latitude to officers.
And the term “criminal offense,” isn’t defined in the order and could include a wide range of charges, including presumably misdemeanors.
This part of the executive order is also likely to face legal challenges from civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates, who have long argued the government’s approach to handling immigration cases violates due process
Trump’s executive order revives a controversial program that ended during the Obama administration.
The “Secure Communities” program requires local authorities to share fingerprints and other arrest data to help track down undocumented immigrants.
Critics said it pitted law enforcement against the communities they were charged with protecting by putting immigration enforcement in the hands of local police. They also claimed it led to the deportations of immigrants who were in the United States illegally but had no criminal arrest records.
Supporters said it helped authorities catch criminals who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
Wednesday’s order rolls back Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program and reinstates “Secure Communities.”
The “interior” order also includes a provision on “recalcitrant countries” — a technical way of describing nations that do not cooperate in taking back nationals the US is seeking to deport.
The order directs the secretaries of homeland security and state to put heavy pressure on those countries, including by levying sanctions against them.
The State Department should also engage in the “maximum” legal pressure through diplomacy and negotiations, the order says.
Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman, said the department was reviewing the order and would work to implement it “immediately.”
“Facilitating the removal of aliens who are subject to a final order of removal, particularly those who pose a danger to national security or public safety, is a top priority for the Department of State,” Toner said.
He also cited work done by State on the issue under the Obama administration.
“In FY2015, US government authorities successfully facilitated the repatriation of 235,413 foreign nationals. Stepped-up diplomatic efforts by ICE and the State Department have resulted in significant increases in cooperation among the 23 countries currently on ICE’s Uncooperative (‘Recalcitrant’) list, with nearly half of these countries improving their records of issuing travel documents, accepting charter deportee flights with deportees, and agreeing on formal arrangements for future removals in recent months,” he said.
The “interior” order contains two provisions to increase the public reporting of crimes related to illegal immigration.
One provision directs US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to create an “Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens.”
The office would offer services to victims of such crimes and to their family members, and would provide reports quarterly “studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.”
Regarding sanctuary cities, another provision seeks “to better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions,” by using a weekly report to publish a list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and name and shame jurisdictions that ignored detention requests in relation to them.
Trump often spoke on the trail of individuals who lost loved ones allegedly at the hands of undocumented immigrants. One such case, the murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, has been a central rallying cry of sanctuary city opponents and advocates of restricting immigration.
“I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people. First, these families lost their loved ones, then they endured a system that ignore them, while at the same time constantly rewarding those who broke the law,” Trump said at the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday. “For these families it has been one injustice after another, but that all turns around beginning today. We are joined here this afternoon my parents whose children were horribly killed by individuals living here illegally.”
The biggest piece of Trump’s first executive order was his long-promised wall on the border with Mexico.