Trump's U.S.-Mexico Wall Is Among Key Immigration Actions Wednesday
Updated at 2:06 p.m. CT
President Trump has signed two executive actions related to immigration and border security, moving ahead with his plans to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and to deport people who are in the country without documentation.
Trump signed the orders at the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday, shortly after the agency's new leader, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, was sworn in. The president will speak about the changes in an address at Homeland Security, in an event that had been slated to begin at 1:25 p.m. ET.
The move comes less than one week before Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto is slated to visit Trump in Washington on Jan. 31.
Construction on the wall will begin "in months," Trump said in an interview with ABC News, adding that planning for the wall is starting immediately. The president also said the U.S. will be "reimbursed at a later date" by Mexico for the costs of building the wall — an idea that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto flatly rejected earlier this month.
The border wall is included in an executive action titled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements. The action also calls for hiring more Border Patrol agents, expanding detention space and emphasizing prosecuting criminal offenses related to the Southern border. It will also expand detention space — a move that could increase the use of private for-profit prisons.
The Justice Department had already beefed up border prosecutions under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The new action suggests law enforcement will be more empowered to prosecute and remove those in the country illegally for minor offenses.
A second executive action, titled Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, will direct the departments of Homeland Security and Justice to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities.
Trump will also restore the Secure Communities Program — which had ceased to operate in 2014 after being used by both the Bush and Obama administrations to force state and local governments to share fingerprints and other data to help federal officials identify undocumented immigrants. Several states and cities sought to opt out of that system, which was also criticized for sometimes resulting in cases of mistaken detention of U.S. citizens.
The executive actions also seek to force other countries to take back criminal aliens by using leverage such as withholding U.S. visas. And it would allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to more aggressively arrest, detain and remove people from the U.S.
The actions are to be officially unveiled during Trump's visit to the Department of Homeland Security, slated for 1:25 p.m. ET. They come one day after the president tweeted, "Among many other things, we will build the wall."
Construction of a border wall was a keystone of Trump's presidential campaign.
A law already exists that experts believe give him the authority to start building that wall. It is the Secure Fence Act of 2006. It was bipartisan; it was overwhelmingly supported. That envisions both physical barriers and more of the high-tech stuff, like sensors and cameras.
The 2006 law mentions a two-layer fence — but that fence was never built and the legislation didn't include money to pay for one. Ten years later, the process could begin in earnest.
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