President Donald Trump announced a pair of executive orders on immigration on Wednesday that served as a notice of intent to fulfill some—if not all—of his most extreme campaign promises on the subject that was the centerpiece of his run to the White House.
The highlights of the plan, which was announced in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security, include the following:
- The homeland security secretary will “take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.”
- “Identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all sources of Federal funds” for said wall. (What those funds are is TBD, but the Trump administration has continued to repeat his absurd promise that Mexico will reimburse us for it.)
- The homeland security secretary is supposed to take actions to ensure the “detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law.” That sounds as though it means all 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.
- However, the policy prioritizes deportation of a long list of undocumented immigrants who have “been convicted” of a crime; “been charged” with a crime, “where such charge has not been resolved”; have committed acts that “constitute a chargeable criminal offense”; “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official [government] matter or application”; have “abused” public welfare programs; have been subject to final order for deportation but not complied; and finally “[i]n the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
- To enforce these deportations, the administration is planning to hire a force of 5,000 new border agents and 10,000 new immigration officers. Or, a “deportation force” if you will.
- The executive action empowers local and state police to “perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention” of undocumented immigrants. Basically, local cops will now be immigration enforcement officials.
- It creates a weekly report of “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” So, an undocumented immigrant crime report/sanctuary city shame list.
- It establishes a special “Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens.”
- It cuts off federal funds “except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary” for so-called sanctuary cities that do not enforce federal immigration law.
On this final point, what qualifies as a sanctuary city? Whatever the homeland security secretary says! “The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction,” one of the orders reads.
Taken as a whole, it’s hard to say how much of the orders the president will actually be able to enact and how much is empty bluster. But it does make the Trump campaign’s ugliest rhetoric around immigration official government policy, from building a wall to creating a deportation force, to threatening cities that attempt to practice more humane immigration policies. For 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country and anyone who cares about them, it feels like a terrifying day.