Trump to order Mexican border wall, curtail immigration

Washington, Jan 25 (IANS) US President Donald Trump on Wednesday was set to order the construction of a Mexican border wall – the first in a series of actions this week to crack down on immigrants and bolster national security, including slashing the number of migrants who can resettle in the US and imposing a ban on refugees from the Middle East.

The orders are among an array of national security directives that Trump is considering issuing in the coming days.

According to a report in the New York Times, Trump is also considering measures that are even more contentious, including reviewing whether to resume the once-secret “black site” detention programme, designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, and keeping open the Guantánamo Bay detention centre.

Trump had on Tuesday hinted at the Mexico border wall move on Twitter, writing “Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!”

Trump will sign the executive order for the wall during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, as Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, arrives in Washington to prepare for the visit of President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. Nieto will be among the first foreign leaders to meet the new President at the end of the month.

Besides the construction of a Mexican border wall, Trump’s first executive order would also include steps to repair existing areas of fencing along the frontier between the US and Mexico.

The order will also include a mandate to increase staff at Customs and Border Protection by 5,000 and alleviate the flood of migrants fleeing violence in Central America, CNN reported.

The border wall was a signature promise of Trump’s campaign.

The US Congress would need to approve any new funding necessary to build the wall, which Trump has insisted Mexico will finance, despite its leaders’ protestations to the contrary, said the report.

The Government Accountability Office has estimated that it could cost $6.5 million per mile to build a single-layer fence, and an additional $4.2 million per mile for roads and more fencing, according to congressional officials.

Trump is also expected to target legal immigrants as early as this week, White House officials said, by halting a decades-old programme that grants refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people as he begins the process of drastically curtailing it and enhancing screening procedures, reported the New York Times.

In the draft of a separate executive order now being circulated inside the administration, Trump would also order that the detention centre at Guantánamo Bay remain open and examine the question of whether the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) should reopen its so-called black sites, secret interrogation and detention centres that it operated overseas.

Former President Barack Obama ordered the closings of all in the first week of his presidency in 2009.

Another executive order under consideration would direct the secretary of state to determine whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization. That designation has been sought by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The refugee policy under consideration would halt admissions from Syria and suspend it from other majority-Muslim nations until the administration can study how to properly vet them.

This would pave the way for the administration to slash the number of displaced people who can be resettled on American soil, and would effectively bar the entry of people from Muslim countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria – at least for some time, according to reports.

The plan is in line with a ban on Muslim immigrants that Trump proposed during his campaign, arguing that such a step was warranted given concerns about terrorism.

The expected actions drew strong criticism from immigrant advocates and human rights groups, which called them discriminatory moves that rejected the American tradition of welcoming immigrants of all backgrounds.

“To think that Trump’s first 100 days are going to be marked by this very shameful shutting of our doors to everybody who is seeking refuge in this country is very concerning,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“Everything points to this being simply a backdoor Muslim ban.”

Trump earlier this week, also signed an executive action that implemented a hiring freeze for some federal workers in an effort to cut government payrolls.

The move, which had long been promised by the Trump administration, does not include military employees, a fact Trump made clear during the signing, said reports.