Trump moves to 'build that wall' with Mexico, limit sanctuary cities
Posted January 25
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump moved aggressively to tighten the nation's immigration controls Wednesday, signing executive actions to jumpstart construction of his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and cut federal grants for immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities."
As early as Thursday, he is expected to pause the flow of all refugees to the U.S. and indefinitely bar those fleeing war-torn Syria.
"Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders," Trump declared during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. "We are going to save lives on both sides of the border."
The actions, less than a week into Trump's presidency, fulfilled pledges that animated his candidacy and represented a dramatic redirection of U.S. immigration policy. They were cheered by Republicans allies in Congress, condemned by immigration advocates and the trigger for immediate new tension with the Mexican government.
"We will work for a border that unites us, not one that divides us," Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a statement of principles of cross-border negotiations provided by the Mexican consulate in Raleigh. "While Mexico recognizes the rights of every sovereign nation to guarantee its security, Mexico does not believe in walls. Our country believes in bridges, highway and railroad crossings and the use of technology as the best allies to promote good neighbor relations. Our border should be the place where we best interact, a space of security, prosperity and shared development."
Peña Nieto is considering canceling a planned trip to Washington next week because of Trump's actions.
"In any way shape or fashion, it's ridiculous. It's just ridiculous," said Eliazar Posada, coordinator for youth at El Centro Hispano in Durham. "This idea that this wall is going to magically stop anyone from coming in is preposterous. I mean, they are doing it because they need to come."
Trump is unveiling his immigration plans at a time when detentions at the nation's southern border are down significantly from levels seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The arrest tally last year was the fifth-lowest since 1972. Deportations of people living in the U.S. illegally also increased under President Barack Obama, though Republicans criticized him for setting prosecution guidelines that spared some groups from the threat of deportation, including those brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
As a candidate, Trump tapped into the immigration concerns of some Americans who worry both about a loss of economic opportunities and the threat of criminals and terrorists entering the country. His call for a border wall was among his most popular proposals with supporters, who often broke out in chants of "build that wall" during rallies.
Among those in the audience for Trump's remarks at DHS were the families of people killed by people in the U.S. illegally. After reading the names of those killed, Trump said, "Your children will not have lost their lives for no reason."
Immigration advocates and others assailed the new president's actions. Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said the president's desire to construct a border wall was "driven by racial and ethnic bias that disgraces America's proud tradition of protecting vulnerable migrants."
Paul Cuadros, an associate professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Media and Journalism, has reported for years on issues of race and poverty in America. He said so many monuments across America symbolize something positive and open, but a border wall would do exactly the opposite.
"This particular structure – monument – that the president wants to build on the border is in contrast to all that," Cuadros said. "For many people, it symbolizes fear, and that's something that is very different for our American character."
Logistically, because of the terrain and the price tag, he said doesn't see the wall ever being built.
How Trump plans to pay for the wall project is murky. While he has repeatedly promised that Mexico will foot the bill, U.S. taxpayers are expected to cover the initial costs and the new administration has said nothing about how it might compel Mexico to reimburse the money.
In an interview with ABC News earlier Wednesday, Trump said, "There will be a payment; it will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form."
Peña Nieto has insisted his country will not pay for a wall.
Congressional aides say there is about $100 million of unspent appropriations in the Department of Homeland Security account for border security, fencing and infrastructure. That would allow planning efforts to get started, but far more money would have to be appropriated for construction to begin.
Trump has insisted many times the border structure will be a wall. The order he signed referred to "a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous and impassable physical barrier."
To build the wall, the president is relying on a 2006 law that authorized several hundred miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile frontier. That bill led to the construction of about 700 miles of various kinds of fencing designed to block both vehicles and pedestrians.
The president's orders also call for hiring 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 10,000 more immigration officers, though the increases are subject to the approval of congressional funding. He also moved to end what Republicans have labeled a catch-and-release system at the border. Currently, some immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are released and given notices to report back to immigration officials at a later date.
"We were taking the stand of, let's wait and see and let's just prepare ourselves just in case anything happens, and now we are getting to the point where things are starting to happen," said Posada of El Centro Hispano. "I've gathered that a lot of my kids – a lot of their families – are extremely scared and uncertain as to what's going on and how it's really going to affect them.
"When is it OK that we are running from the United States to seek refuge in another country? When did that become the norm?" he asked.
Posada said, for some Latinos in the Triangle, the concern is so strong that education is now on the back burner.
"I've had sit-down conversations with parents who are afraid to send their kids to school because their information is already out and they don't want them to be more exposed than they already are," he said, noting others are already making plans to leave th ecountry.
"Just yesterday, I was talking to one of my kids who was making plans to move to Mexico in case DACA is removed – and this is a kid who has been here since he was 9 months old," he said. "He's never been to Mexico. He doesn't know the area. He doesn't know the culture."
Trump has threatened to roll back Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young adults brought to the U.S. illegally as children to continue working and studying in the country. But Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that the administration was more concerned about people in the country illegally who have committed crimes than about students.
Trump's crackdown on sanctuary cities – locales that don't cooperate with immigration authorities – could cost individual jurisdictions millions of dollars. But the administration may face legal challenges, given that some federal courts have found that cities or counties cannot hold immigrants beyond their jail terms or deny them bond based only a request from immigration authorities.
Some of the nation's largest metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, are considered sanctuary cities.
North Carolina lawmakers last year passed legislation cutting of some state road and school funds to sanctuary cities.
The president also moved to restart the "Secure Communities" program, which was launched under President George W. Bush and initially touted as a way for immigration authorities to quickly and easily identify people in the country illegally who had been arrested by local authorities.
The program helped the Obama administration deport a record high of more than 409,000 immigrants in 2012. But Obama eventually abandoned the program after immigration advocates and civil libertarians decried it as too often targeting immigrants charged with low-level crimes, including traffic violations.
"The Hispanic community has been on this continent for much much longer than Donald Trump, and we've survived worse," Posada said.
Trump is expected to wield his executive power again later this week with the directive to dam the refugee flow into the U.S. for at least four months, in addition to the open-ended pause on Syrian arrivals.
The president's upcoming order is also expected to suspend issuing visas for people from several predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for at least 30 days, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press.