Work on border wall to kick off Trump's migrant clampdown
Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday to immediately begin the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico to curb illegal immigration.
The president was also considering slashing the number of refugees able to shelter in the United States, and suspending visas for citizens from war-torn Syria and other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Justifying his sweeping crackdowns, Mr Trump - who has long held that immigration is a threat to national security - said that "when it comes to public safety, there is no place for politics".
Mr Trump said during his election campaign that immigrants from Mexico were "rapists" and "drug dealers".
In announcing the construction of the border wall, he promised his policies would "save thousands of lives, millions of jobs and billions of dollars".
"A nation without borders is not a nation," said Mr Trump, speaking from the department of homeland security.
"From today, the United States gets back control of its borders."
In an interview with ABC News, Mr Trump said that construction of the wall could begin "within months" and that Mexico will reimburse the US for the cost.
"Ultimately, it will come out with what's happening with Mexico," Mr Trump said, according to part of an interview released yesterday. "We're going to be starting those negotiations relatively soon."
Mr Trump's central promise during his campaign - repeated at every rally, often in unison with his crowds - was to build an impenetrable wall between the US and Mexico to keep out people "taking our jobs".
He also promised to immediately round up and deport "criminal aliens".
The president yesterday signed a directive to crack down on "sanctuary cities" - areas where police are not required to use their resources to seek out illegal immigrants.
America is home to 11 million undocumented immigrants, according to recent studies.
Many are contributors to the economy, forming a significant part of the American labour market.
The White House plans include stripping cities sheltering undocumented immigrants of government funding, and taking steps to force countries of origin accept the return of illegal immigrants who commit criminal acts. "We are going to get the bad ones out," Mr Trump said yesterday.
But the administration may face legal challenges, given that some federal courts have found that illegal immigrants cannot be denied bail based only a request from immigration authorities.
Mr Trump is expected to limit the number of refugees admitted to the US to 50,000 a year, down from 100,000, and to impose a temporary ban on most refugees.
The new administration is also considering denying visits to the US by people from several Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.
James Carafano, who led the homeland security portfolio in Mr Trump's presidential transition team, said that the restrictions were designed to "stem the flow" of foreign jihadists to the United States.
The vetting of Syrian refugees is already a process that can last up to two years, and experts have said there is no evidence that extremists have sought to use the mechanism to enter the US.
"To use world events as an excuse to keep people from coming to the US who are literally fleeing for their lives disrespects the history of this country," said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer.
An executive order drafted for Mr Trump to sign calls for officials to produce a plan for safe areas for refugees inside Syria and other countries, according to a document seen by journalists.
"The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defence, is directed within 90 days to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement," the draft order says.