Trump’s Executive Orders Polarize Nation
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders calling for the immediate construction of a border wall with Mexico, and increased efforts to find and deport undocumented immigrants. He also announced plans to decrease legal immigration, including preventing Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
These executive orders are poised to fulfill some of his campaignís most controversial promises. American citizens and international leaders alike are debating their constitutionality, impact on foreign relations and effect on American identity. As Trump presses forward, the world is paying careful attention.
Trump’s legal immigration initiatives will block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and will prevent refugees from other countries from entering for at least 120 days. After, the refugee program will resume on a much smaller scale, admitting 50,000 people per year as opposed to the 110,000 admitted in 2016. In addition, all immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries will be suspended for 90 days as an act of terrorism prevention (The Wall Street Journal, “Donald Trump’s Immigration Ban Sows Chaos,” 1.30.2017). During this period, the government will refine its terrorist screening procedures (The New York Times, “Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to be Built and Plans to Block Syrian Refugees,” 1.25.2017).
To combat illegal immigration, Trump mandated the hiring of 5,000 border control agents and tripled the number of Custom Enforcement Agents. He also called for the construction of the highly-disputed barrier wall, insisting that it will be paid for by Mexico. Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, suggested that an import tax on Mexican goods could supply the necessary funding. President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a trip to Washington on Thursday, however, to emphasize that Mexico has no intention of financing the project. In an interview, former Mexican president Vicente Fox said that U.S.-Mexico relations are the worst that they have ever been. He added, “I never thought the U.S. people would go for a president like this,” (The Washington Post, “White House Says Mexico Border Wall Might Be Funded by Tax on Imports,” 1.26.2017).
Trump’s executive orders not only target Mexico, but also sanctuary cities. These cities, such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. To increase compliance with immigration laws, Trump plans to halt funding for all of their programs except law enforcement. He also intends to frequently publish a list of the cities that refuse to cooperate (NBC News, “Trump Signs Executive Order Aimed at Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration,” 1.25.2017).
California state senators argued that this plan violates the Tenth Amendment since it forces local governments to implement federal statutes. Mayors of several sanctuary cities spoke out against it, as well. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stated, “We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding. Together, the Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality” (The New York Times, “‘Sanctuary City’ Mayors Vow to Defy Trump’s Immigration Order,” 1.25.2017).
While many believe that Trump’s immigration reforms enhance national security, others see them as threats to American identity. Traditionally a nation celebrated for welcoming newcomers, the United States has assumed a very different persona. Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund Lynn Tramonte spoke out, asserting, “[The orders are] a dramatic, radical and extreme assault on immigrants and the values of our country” (The New York Times, “Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to be Built and Plans to Block Syrian Refugees,” 1.25.2017).
Tramonte is not alone in her opinion. On Saturday, a New York federal judge ruled against the order banning immigration from the seven Muslim countries, saying that those who arrived legally could not be deported. Two federal judges in Boston placed a seven day restraining order on Trump’s travel ban. Lawyers in Virginia earned the right to protect detainees for a week (NBC News, “Trump Defends His Immigration Ban Amid Uncertainty, Public Outcry,” 1.29.2017).
In addition, several protests erupted across the country. Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered at U.S. airports this past weekend to denounce Trumpís travel restrictions. New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, tweeted his support for the protests. “I never thought I’d see the day when refugees, who have fled war-torn countries in search of a better life, would be turned away at our doorstep … This is not who we are, and not who we should be” (NPR, “Thousands Protest Nationwide Against Trump’s Immigration Order,” 1.29.2017).
While not everyone agrees with Cuomo, he touches on something important: Trump, with his nationalist policies, is redefining Americaís values. In the weeks that come, the world will see the implications of this redefinition.
–Hanna Stasiuk, Guest Reporter