Trump takes first steps toward building the wall and cracking down on sanctuary cities
President Donald Trump will sign two executive orders Wednesday that attempt to follow through on his campaign promises to crack down on immigration, including his controversial plan to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Here’s what we know (and don’t know) about Trump’s actions.
Trump will direct the Department of Homeland Security to start construction of a “large physical barrier on the Southern border,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. Spicer called the barrier “a commonsense first step to security” that will stop the flow of drugs and immigrants.
U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill, at least initially. During his campaign, Trump repeatedly claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall and before his inauguration, he tweeted that any money spent on the wall “will be paid back by Mexico later. But Trump hasn’t specified how that might happen. Spicer reiterated that again on Wednesday: “One way or another, as the president said before, Mexico will pay for it.” Mexican officials have repeatedly insisted they won’t pay for the wall.
We’re still not sure how much it will cost, or what it will look like. At various times during his campaign, Trump said the wall would rise between 35 and 55 feet and cost $8 billion to $12 billion. Other estimates have projected the overall cost to be as high as $25 billion. Spicer said initial construction will begin with “existing funds and resources that the Department [of Homeland Security] already has.”
Congress will need to allocate additional funding in the next federal budget, which must be approved by April 28 to prevent a government shutdown. The existing border fence, which covers about 650 miles of the 1,933-mile border, cost more than $6 billion.
Trump will also try to restrict federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” which decline to use local law enforcement resources for immigration enforcement. Spicer said the president will direct the secretary of Homeland Security “to look at funding streams that are going to these cities” and “figure out how to defund those streams.” Sanctuary cities include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and more than two-dozen other places where local police won’t arrest someone solely for being undocumented.
Trump will order Homeland Security to end the so-called “catch and release” policy, where some people caught crossing the border illegally are released and ordered to appear in court at a later date. Advocates are concerned that mandatory detention will lead to children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and others being locked up indefinitely. Spicer said the Trump administration is “going to unapologetically enforce the law, no ifs, ands, or buts.”
Trump is expected to sign the executive orders Wednesday afternoon after he swears in Gen. John Kelly as secretary of Homeland Security.
Cover: John Moore/Getty