WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump took a first step toward fulfilling his pledge to “build a wall” on the Mexican border Wednesday, signing two immigration-related decrees.
Trump visited the Department of Homeland Security to sign an order to begin work to “build a large physical barrier on the southern border,” according to the White House.
The Republican president is also expected to take steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking the issuing of visas to people from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.
Trump signed two executive orders at the Department of Homeland Security, one ordering construction of a wall along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border and the other moving to strip federal grant money from “sanctuary” states and cities, often governed by Democrats, that harbor illegal immigrants.
In cities such as San Francisco local officials, often Democrats, refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on actions against illegal immigrants.
“The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said construction on the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the United States “100 percent” of the costs. Mexican officials have said they will not pay for the wall.
During a White House briefing, Spicer referred to the wall as “a large physical barrier on the southern border.”
“Building this barrier is more than just a campaign promise, it’s a common sense first step to really securing our porous border,” Spicer added. “This will stem the flow of drugs, crime, illegal immigration into the United States,” he said.
Trump has long said that he will make Mexico pay for the wall.
“We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico,” Trump told ABC on Wednesday. “I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. What I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”
His plans prompted an immediate outcry from immigrant advocates who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people.
Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.
Asked about Trump’s wall, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain said a physical barrier is not enough to secure the border and called for the additional use of observation towers, drones and other technology.
“Walls can be easily breached,” McCain, whose home state of Arizona borders Mexico, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.