WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump signed directives on Wednesday to build a wall along the US-Mexican border and strip funding from cities that shield illegal immigrants as he charged ahead with sweeping and divisive plans to transform how the United States deals with immigration and national security.
The Republican president is expected to take additional steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking the issuing of visas to people from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Trump signed two executive orders, directing the construction of a wall along the roughly 3,200km US-Mexico border, moving to peel away federal grant money from ‘sanctuary’ states and cities that harbour illegal immigrants and beefing up the force of immigration agents.
“The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central America is harming both Mexico and the US,” Trump said in remarks at the Department of Homeland of Security after signing the directives. “A nation without borders is not a nation.”
His plans prompted an immediate outcry from immigrant advocates and others who said Trump was jeopardising the rights and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an enemy, not an ally.
Local officials in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants. Billions of dollars in federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could be at risk.
“The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidise this disregard for our laws,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said construction on the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the US ‘100 per cent’ of the costs. Mexican officials have said they will not pay for the wall.
Asked about waterboarding, Trump said “absolutely, I feel it works, but I will defer to the defence secretary and the CIA director over whether to use it.”
The Trump administration is also preparing executive orders that would clear the way to drastically reduce the US role in the United Nations and other international organisations, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. The orders would begin a process to review and potentially abrogate certain forms of multilateral treaties, the Times reported, citing unnamed officials.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2017.