WASHINGTON (CN ) – Directing the Department of Homeland Security to begin constructing a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, President Donald Trump took executive action Wednesday to deliver on a promise from his primary campaign.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Trump said in a speech this afternoon at the Department of Homeland Security. “Beginning today the United States gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders.”
Not willing to wait on Mexico paying for the wall, however, Trump also signed an order sending more money to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and directing federal agencies to look into how they can withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities.” Named for a refugee movement of the 1980s, sanctuary cities do not comply with the detainer requests used by federal immigration authorities to keep individuals in custody if they are suspected of violating immigration law.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the executive order reads. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic.”
The order on the sanctuary jurisdictions directs the Department of Homeland Security to deport people who have been charged or convicted of crimes and are in the country illegally.
Trump railed against sanctuary cities during the campaign and primaries, and the executive action he signed on Wednesday is a step toward ending them. The order also directs more agencies to begin deporting anyone living in the United States illegally.
The wall, and Mexico’s funding of it, was perhaps the most consistent of Trump’s policy proposals during his campaign for president.
Audiences met the claim with thunderous cheers at rallies and campaign events, but Trump recast the promise in an interview Wednesday with ABC News.
Noting that the payment could come in a “complicated form,” Trump now says U.S. taxpayers will be “reimbursed” by Mexico.
The executive orders Trump signed on Wednesday during a visit with Homeland Security are the ninth and 10th orders, or presidential memoranda, he has issued since taking office last week.
Just how Trump will fund the massive project in the short term is unclear. Building a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border will be costly. Trump himself has estimated the cost at between $8 billion and $12 billion. Other estimates put the cost at closer to $25 billion.
Even the lowest estimate would consume roughly a third of the total Homeland Security budget, meaning Trump would likely need to get help from Congress to fund the project.
The president can move already appropriated money around within departments without congressional approval, but this is typically done only with small amounts of money to cover ongoing projects and to cover basic expenses.
Funding of the border wall would likely not come in this way, almost certainly setting up a budgetary showdown between the White House and Democrats, as well as any Republicans wary of handing out such an exorbitant amount of money when the current short-term funding package expires in April.
U.S. churches kicked off the sanctuary movement in the 1980s, opening their doors to refugees from wars in Central America that killed half a million people, most of them civilians, in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.
In California, where lawmakers have taken steps to create the first sanctuary state, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon quoted a frequent feature of the president’s Twitter posts.
“It’s sad Donald Trump thinks these executive orders make America safer, and it’s sad he thinks they make America better,” said Rendon, a Democrat representing the city of Paramount.
“These orders are exactly why the Legislature is taking steps to help immigrants with access to legal counsel to ensure due process,” Rendon added. “We’re also examining ways the state can aid sanctuary cities, and that’s an area we believe former Attorney General Holder and the Covington law firm can also be helpful.”
Rendon announced earlier this month that the state Legislature had hired Covington Burling – a law firm led by outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder – as outside legal counsel. In addition to immigration, lawmakers are seeking Holder’s advice on various issues that the incoming Trump administration threatens, including health care, climate change science and civil rights.
Of the executive order on sanctuary cities, Rendon said “the language is so broad that mass deportations are likely without real due process.”
“Sanctuary cities were established to make communities safer and free up law enforcement for real crimes,” Rendon added. “Our cities can’t afford to shift law enforcement resources to help track down law-abiding individuals. Our agricultural industry and other economic sectors, businesses large and small, depend on an immigrant workforce. If those businesses suffer, the national economy will suffer, too, and that’s all on Trump.”