President Donald Trump signed directives on Wednesday to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and strip funding from cities that shield illegal immigrants as he charged ahead with sweeping and divisive plans to transform how the United States deals with immigration and national security.
The Republican president is expected to take additional 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.
The intent of those proposals is to head off Islamist violence in the United States, although critics have said it soils America’s reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants of all stripes.
Trump signed two executive orders, directing the construction of a wall along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border, moving to peel away federal grant money from “sanctuary” states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants and beefing up the force of immigration agents.
“We are in the middle of a crisis on our southern border: The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central American is harming both Mexico and the United States,” Trump said in remarks at the Department of Homeland of Security after signing the directives.
“And I believe the steps we will take starting right now will improve the safety in both of our countries,” Trump said, adding: “A nation without borders is not a nation.”
His plans prompted an immediate outcry from immigrant advocates and others who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an enemy, not an ally.
Local officials in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants. Billions of dollars in federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could be at risk.
“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.”