On Wednesday, President Trump began his sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants with an executive order to begin the immediate construction of a border wall with Mexico, and calling on a newly expanded force to sweep up immigrants who are in the country illegally.
President Trump’s plan would revive programs where the federal government works with local and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain unauthorized immigrants with criminal records, sharing information to help track and deport them.
The New York Times released a draft executive order that would “indefinitely block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and bar all refugees from the rest of the world for at least 120 days.”
While the White House has not officially released the plan, in an interview on ABC on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he is seeking to erect “formidable barriers for those seeking refuge in the United States.
“It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now, it’s very easy to come in,” Mr. Trump said.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday at the Department of Homeland Security, where he signed the orders. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders.”
Wrote the New York Times, “Taken together, the moves would turn the full weight of the federal government to fortifying the United States border, rounding up some of the 11 million people who are in the country illegally and targeting refugees, who are often among the world’s most vulnerable people. It is an aggressive use of presidential power that follows through on the nationalistic vision Mr. Trump presented during his presidential campaign.”
The paper added, “The plans are a sharp break with former President Barack Obama’s approach and what was once a bipartisan consensus to devise a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s illegal immigrants. Mr. Obama, however, angered many immigrant groups by deporting millions of unauthorized workers, largely during his first term.”
The order also threatens roughly three dozen sanctuary cities with losing grant money should they not comply with requests to detain unauthorized immigrants.
These goals cannot be laid out simply by orders. Congress would be required to appropriate funding for the construction of the wall, estimated in the tens of billions.
However, Mr. Trump directed existing funds to start the wall and called for the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 immigration officers.
The response was swift
“With today’s sweeping and constitutionally suspect executive actions, the president is turning his back on both our history and our values as a proud nation of immigrants,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader.
She added, “Wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a border wall Mexico will never pay for, and punishing cities that do not want their local police forces forced to serve as President Trump’s deportation dragnet, does nothing to fix our immigration system or keep Americans safe.”
“They’re setting out to unleash this deportation force on steroids, and local police will be able to run wild, so we’re tremendously concerned about the impact that could have on immigrants and families across the country,” said Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “After today’s announcement, the fear quotient is going to go up exponentially.”
Newly appointed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement as well.
“It is important to put these White House executive actions in context,” he said. “Executive orders do not change existing law. Executive orders cannot contradict existing law. And Executive orders can be challenged for violating constitutional and legal standards in their enforcement.”
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) is prepared “to protect the public safety and general welfare of all Californians as well as their privacy and property rights. These are rights and protections which have survived numerous legal challenges over time. And they are grounded on our federal and state constitutions not on an executive pronouncement.”
The California DOJ will “protect the rights of all of its people from unwarranted intrusion from any source, including the federal government. In California, we want to foster trust between law enforcement authorities and the communities they are obliged to protect. That’s why California enacted the TRUST and TRUTH acts to guide our men and women in uniform on the proper execution of their public safety duties.”
He added, “California is prepared to work with our federal government to enhance the safety and well-being of all our people. We will work with our sister states to achieve mutual goals of respect and cooperation with the federal government. And we will remain ready to advance and defend California’s policies wherever and whenever necessary.”
California leaders at a press briefing blasted the President. Senate Leader Kevin de León said, “We can all agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform – clear, predictable and fair guidelines, with secure borders and a path to citizenship for those who are undocumented.
“But the executive actions announced today are counterproductive, divisive and unnecessary. They won’t make us safer. They won’t bring back jobs or solve our economic challenges. In fact, these measures do just the opposite,” he said.
He called them “spiteful and mean-spirited directives that only instill fear in the hearts of millions of people who pay taxes, contribute to our economy and our way of life.”
He added, “Thanks to the supermajority we won in November, we have the ability to use urgency clauses to implement new laws immediately, and the actions of the new administration demand an immediate response.”
Among other things, they will expedite the process to pass SB 54 “to prevent state and local tax dollars and law enforcement resources from being used to help ICE destroy families and damage our economy.” They will also “fast-track SB 6 by Senator Ben Hueso – the Due Process for All Act – to make sure those facing deportation have due process and adequate legal representation.”
Senator de León added, “It’s not the job of our local and county and state law enforcement to turn the cogs of President Trump’s deportation machine. He cannot force us and we will not hesitate to fight him in Congress and settle the matter in court.”
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement, “Today the Trump Administration made it clear that San Francisco can no longer ‘wait and see’ when it comes to defending its residents from deportation. San Francisco’s public defenders stand ready and willing to fight for the city’s families in immigration detention. We are used to taking on the toughest cases, navigating the complicated intersection of criminal and immigration law, and helping people facing indefinite incarceration.”
He added, “We stand in solidarity with millions of people throughout the country in opposition to Trump’s xenophobic attacks on immigrants and believe no family should be torn apart because they cannot afford a private attorney. We call on the City of San Francisco and Mayor Lee to ensure detained immigrants are appointed public defenders to fight for them.”
CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), the the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, Wednesday issued a statement in reaction to executive orders expected to be signed by President Donald Trump restricting immigration from a number of Middle Eastern and African countries.
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said: “Make no mistake – whatever language is used in President Trump’s executive orders on refugees, immigration and visa programs – Muslims are the sole targets of these orders.
“These orders are a disturbing confirmation of Islamophobic and un-American policy proposals made during the presidential election campaign,” he said. “Never before in our country’s history have we purposely – as a matter of policy – imposed a ban on immigrants or refugees on the basis of religion, or imposed a religious litmus test on those coming to this nation.”
He added, “This ban does not make our country safer. Instead, it serves to stigmatizes Muslim refugees and the entire American Muslim community. It will hand a propaganda tool to our enemies who promote the false narrative of an American war on Islam.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting