Trump moves to start 'immediate' construction of border wall
WASHINGTON - President Trump is planning to sign executive orders on Wednesday enabling construction of his proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and targeting cities where local leaders refuse to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation, part of a multiday rollout of his long-promised crackdown on illegal immigration, officials familiar with the decision said Tuesday.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive actions Wednesday to begin ramping up immigration enforcement, including a new border wall with Mexico, vowing that construction on his chief campaign pledge would begin in months.
In an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security, Trump kicked off the rollout of a series of directives aimed at clamping down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. Aides said more directives could come later this week, including new restrictions on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
The presidential directives signed Wednesday aim to create more detention centers, add more federal border control agents and withhold federal funds to cities that do not comply with federal immigration laws, Trump aides said.
"We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States," Trump said, addressing DHS employees after signing the orders. "Beginning today the United States gets control of its borders."
The construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border was Trump's chief campaign promise as he blamed illegal immigration for constricting the U.S. job market for Americans and adding to national security concerns.
But it remained unclear how Trump's directive would accelerate construction of the wall, the funds for which would have to be appropriated by Congress, or pay for the added enforcement tools and border control agents.
Construction industry analysts have said the total costs of Trump's border wall could approach $20 billion. Administration officials have said they are discussing funding options with GOP lawmakers.
In an interview with ABC News, Trump also reiterated his vow that American taxpayers would be reimbursed by the Mexican government for the costs of the wall.
"As soon as we can physically do it," Trump said when asked when construction would begin. "I would say in months. ... Certainly, planning is starting immediately."
Trump said from the beginning of his campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexican leaders have balked, and Trump has said the project will start with U.S. tax dollars to begin construction quickly.
Trump is scheduled to welcome Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to the White House next week.
"We'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico," Trump said in the television interview. "I'm just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form."
White House officials said Trump's appearance at DHS is meant as the first step in a rollout of a series of executive actions to begin fulfilling his campaign promises on immigration. The moves provoked an immediate backlash from immigrant rights advocates who accused the president of hyperbole to whip up fear in the electorate at the expense of immigrants and refugees.
"The hateful, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that was a hallmark of the Trump campaign is starting to become a reality," Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a conference call with reporters. "Chaos and destruction will be the outcome."
During Trump's visit to DHS, Vice President Mike Pence swore in retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as the new homeland security secretary.
"He's a rough, tough guy, but he's also got a good heart," Trump said of Kelly.
Aides said the executive actions include measures to bolster enforcement inside the United States, suggesting that Trump aims to make good on promises to boost workplace raids and ramp up deportations.
Trump is calling for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration officers and 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents.
Aides said the actions include a directive to Kelly to examine ways to limit federal funding to "sanctuary cities" - including Washington, Los Angeles and San Francico - that do not report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.
And White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration would resume the Secure Communities program that granted greater immigration enforcement powers to local authorities - a program that was shut down by the Obama administration over concerns it had led to abuse.
Spicer said Trump on Wednesday would not sign any orders overturning the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has allowed more than 700,000 younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to apply for two-year work visas.
Trump has promised to overturn DACA, which has been enormously popular among the immigrant rights community.
"The president understands the magnitude of this problem," Spicer said of DACA. "He's a family man. He has a huge heart."
Trump will work through it "in a very humane way," the spokesman added.