Donald Trump today signed an executive order to “build a wall” on the Mexican border.
It’s one of two orders enforcing his threatened crackdown on immigration.
Trump’s press spokesman, Sean Spicer, repeated the president’s insistence that Mexico will pay for the 3200km wall, which Mexico has long disputed. Trump’s team estimate the cost at $US5-10 billion; construction experts say it will cost many times that.
The order will also increase detention space for illegal immigrants on the southern border and end the so-called “catch-and-release” system. Currently, some immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are released and given notices to report back to immigration officials at a later date.
The second order will strip federal grants from sanctuary cities – cities where local officials do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts that could lead to deportation. This includes some of America’s largest cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago.
The president is also expected to take steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking visas to people from several Muslim-majority countries including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.
These executive orders are among a flurry of actions taken in the first days of the Trump administration. Here’s a roundup:
Another executive order, expected today, would restore detention of terrorism suspects at facilities known as “black sites”.
This would also remove limitations on coercive interrogation techniques – in plain English, torture – in military interrogations.
Senator John McCain, a torture survivor and co-author of a 2015 law barring the security agencies from using such techniques, most experienced interrogators and behavioural scientists now reject torture as ineffective, as well as brutal.
Trump has allowed all government agency heads to dump requirements of the Affordable Care Act – better known as the “Obamacare” national health insurance scheme.
Trump has ordered that federal dollars cannot go to organisations that provide or promote abortion “as a method of family planning”. This order applies outside US borders.
This particularly worries women’s rights campaigners in developing countries, where funds or facilities are already limited. Inside the US, many fear it is a signal that Trump will move to ban abortions.
As previously reported, Trump has withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded by suggesting China could be invited to replace the US.
The president has told agencies they cannot fill any vacant positions or open new ones, with two exceptions: military personnel and critical public safety positions.
Trump ordered permits for the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines be approved within 60 days. That memo goes on to issue personal support for the multi-billion dollar crude oil pipelines.
Obama halted work on Keystone XL, which would run across the Canada-US border and therefore required presidential approval, after an outcry from environmental groups.
Those opposed to the project said it would boost extraction from Canada’s oil sands, which emits 14% more greenhouse gases than other forms of oil production. They also argued a new oil pipeline would diminish America’s role as a leader of climate change.
For months, Native American groups and their supporters also protested the Dakota Access pipeline being laid a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and underneath the tribe’s main source of drinking water.
The president also signed an order mandating pipelines built in the US use American steel.
Until last year, Trump owned a small amount of stock in Energy Transfer Partners and at least $100,000 in Phillips 66, an energy company that owns one-quarter of the Dakota pipeline.
Trump’s cabinet picks have signalled he will take a friendly approach to oil companies. Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, sat on the board of Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners, the two pipeline firms funding Dakota Access.
The president also selected Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, and his nominee for Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has voiced his support for the pipeline.
Trump ordered that agencies and the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality set up faster deadlines and environmental approval for “high priority” projects. It gives wide powers to the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The president has not yet nominated a chairman.
The president ordered the Commerce Secretary to begin a 60-day review of regulations for US manufacturers, with the aim of finding ways to speed up permits and all federal approvals for them.
The president has frozen all regulations now in process until they are approved by him or a federal agency. This means any regulation signed by Obama in his final weeks in office — including some dealing with energy efficiency standards – are on hold.
The administration has instituted a media blackout at many government departments. These include the Environmental Protection Agency, Agriculture and Interior departments. Its National Parks Service tweeted photos comparing the size of crowds at the Trump and Obama inaugurations.
The executive director for the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Jeff Ruch, said: “We are seeing the dark cloud of Mordor extend over federal service,” referring to the evil kingdom in The Lord of the Rings.
The president is also believed to be planning to shut down arts and heritage programmes. A member of his transition team reported Trump will eliminate both the National Endowment For The Arts and the National Endowment For The Humanities, and privatise the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.
Trump could sign an executive order initiating an investigation into voter fraud tomorrow. The investigation would be carried out through the Department of Justice and would expand on Trump’s claims that millions of illegal votes were cast. Independent electoral experts insist there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud.
Six journalists have been charged with felonies after being arrested while covering the unrest around Trump’s inauguration. They face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said: “These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests.”