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RFE/RL January 25, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders that are in keeping with his campaign promises to boost border security and crack down on immigrants living illegally in the United States.
Trump signed the orders on January 25 during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after honoring the department’s newly confirmed secretary, retired General John Kelly.
The executive orders jumpstart construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, one of his campaign promises, and cut federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities that don’t arrest or detain illegal immigrants.
The orders are part of sweeping anti-immigration measures that are expected in the coming days — with media reports saying further measures will include a temporary ban on refugees and suspension of U.S. visas for citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and other Muslim countries.
The ban on allowing refugees into the United States except for religious minorities escaping persecution is expected to last multiple months until authorities put an aggressive vetting process in place, according to Reuters and AP.
Another order reportedly will block visas from being issued to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, the news wires said, citing unidentified officials and experts.
Trump said in a January 25 television interview that construction of the border wall that he promised during his election campaign would begin within months.
He said the work initially would be funded by U.S. taxpayers, but he vowed to recuperate those funds from Mexico. He did not specify how he planned to get Mexico to reimburse those payments.
Trump said on Twitter late on January 24: “Big day planned on national security tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall” between the United States and Mexico.
Building a wall on the Mexican border was a top Trump campaign pledge. Trump also campaigned on pledges to tighten immigration from majority Muslim countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, including stemming the flow of refugees.
At first, he called for temporarily halting entry to the United States from Muslim countries, but later shifted the policy to a focus on what he called “extreme vetting” of people coming from countries where terrorist groups are located.
Many Trump supporters decried former President Barack Obama’s decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States saying they feared that those fleeing the country’s civil war would carry out militant attacks.
Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq — all nations plagued by war — are among the countries that are home to the majority of the world’s refugees today.
Trump is expected to instruct the State Department to stop issuing visas to people from certain specific nations and he could also instruct U.S. Customs officials to stop any current visa holders from those countries from entering the United States.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on January 24 that the State and Homeland Security departments will work on setting up a vetting process to govern entry from those countries.
Legal experts say the executive orders may be open to legal challenge from groups arguing they are unconstitutional because they single out a particular religion for discrimination.
“His comments during the campaign and a number of people on his team focused very much on religion as the target,” immigration expert Hiroshi Motomura at the UCLA School of Law told Reuters.
Other measures may include directing all agencies to finish work on a biometric identification system for noncitizens entering and exiting the United States and a crackdown on immigrants fraudulently receiving government benefits, Reuters said.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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