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WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Wednesday
ordered construction of a U.S.-Mexican border wall and
punishment for cities shielding illegal immigrants while mulling
restoring a CIA secret detention program as he launched broad
but divisive plans to reshape U.S. immigration and national
A draft executive order seen by Reuters that Trump is
expected to sign in the coming days would block the entry of
refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any
immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African
countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen
while permanent rules are studied.
Less than a week into his presidency, Trump has moved
aggressively to put his stamp on a range of policies, including
steps to gut the healthcare system devised by his predecessor,
and make clear that as president he is not turning toward more
moderate positions than he took as a candidate.
His directives on Wednesday signaled a tough action toward
the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United
States, most from Latin America, whom he already has threatened
In a move critics called a slight to the integrity of
American democracy, Trump also said on Wednesday he would seek a “major investigation” into what he believes was voter fraud in
the November election, despite overwhelming consensus among
state officials, election experts and politicians that it is
rare in the United States.
“We are going to restore the rule of law in the United
States,” Trump told an audience that included relatives of
people killed by illegal immigrants at the Department of
Homeland Security after signing two executive orders.
The directives ordered the construction of a
multibillion-dollar wall along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-km)
U.S.-Mexico border, moved to strip federal funding from “sanctuary” states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants,
and expanded the force of American immigration agents.
His plans prompted an outcry from immigrant advocates and
Democratic lawmakers who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights
and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an
enemy, not an ally, and soiling America’s historic reputation as
a welcoming place for immigrants of all stripes.
“The border wall is about political theater at the expense
of civil liberties,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the
Southern Border Communities Coalition immigrant advocacy group.
“It is not national security policy. Border communities are
among the safest in the nation, and patrolling them with tens of
thousands of heavily armed, poorly trained, unaccountable agents
puts lives at risks. This will turn these communities into de
facto military zones,” Ramirez said.
The White House said the wall would stem the flow of drugs,
crime and illegal immigration into the United States.
“We are in the middle of a crisis on our southern border:
The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central America
is harming both Mexico and the United States,” Trump said,
adding: “A nation without borders is not a nation.”
The immigration crackdown has sparked fear among so-called “dreamers,” whose parents brought them to the United States
illegally and who received temporary deportation relief and work
permits from President Barack Obama.
Trump said the dreamers should not fear deportation.
“They shouldn’t be very worried,” Trump told ABC News in an
interview broadcast on Wednesday..
“Where you have great people that are here that have done a
good job, they should be far less worried,” he said, adding: “We’ll be coming out with policy on that over the next period of
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan also said the “dreamers” should not be worried. “We’re focused on physical
security of the border, we’re focused on those who are coming to
do us harm from terrorist states and things like that,” he told
TENSION WITH MEXICO
Trump is also expected to order a review that could lead to
bringing back a CIA program for holding terrorism suspects in
secret overseas “black site” prisons where interrogation
techniques often condemned as torture were used during former
Republican President George W. Bush’s administration, two U.S.
Trump’s actions could further test relations with Mexico.
The wall plan has infuriated Mexicans. Trump’s policies,
including his demand that the North American Free Trade
Agreement with Mexico and Canada be renegotiated or scrapped,
have put Mexico’s government on the defensive. Trump and Mexican
President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.
Pena Nieto said on Wednesday night that he “regrets and
disapproves” of the push by Trump to build a new wall along the
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 under Trump’s move.
In the ABC News interview, Trump said construction on the
wall would start within months, with planning starting
immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the United States “100 percent” of the costs. Mexican officials have said they
will not pay for the wall.
The White House said Trump’s goal was to get the wall
started as quickly as possible using existing government funds
and then work with the Republican-led Congress on further
Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key
element of his presidential campaign, with supporters at his
rallies often chanting: “Build the wall.”
The cost, nature and extent of the wall remain unclear.
Trump last year put the cost at “probably $8 billion,” although
other estimates are higher, and he said the wall would span
1,000 miles (1,600 km) because of the terrain of the border.
END OF ‘CATCH AND RELEASE’
Trump’s directives would end the practice known by critics
as “catch and release” in which authorities apprehend illegal
immigrants on U.S. territory but do not immediately detain or
The directives also include hiring 5,000 more U.S. Customs
and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to
slip across the border and tripling the number of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and
deport immigrants living in the United States illegally.
They also create more detention space for illegal immigrants
along the southern border to make it easier to detain and deport
The intent of the proposals regarding refugees and
immigrants from the seven Muslim-majority nations is to head off
Islamist violence in the United States.
The draft directive on immigration also suspends the U.S.
refugee program for four months while determining whether
permanent changes to the system are needed.
(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, Roberta Rampton,
Jonathan Landay, Mark Hosenball, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan,
Mohammad Zargham, Eric Beech and Susan Heavey)
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