Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler and Damian Paletta
January 24, 2017
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump was set to announce plans to expedite construction of his promised wall along the Mexican border, and was preparing orders banning entry to the U.S. of people from countries deemed risky and suspending the U.S. refugee program, people familiar with the planning said.
Mr. Trump planned to travel Wednesday to the Department of Homeland Security, where he said he would be announcing his border security plans. That may include an effort to punish so-called sanctuary cities where law enforcement officials limit cooperation with federal immigration agencies.
“Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow,” he said on Twitter Tuesday evening. “Among many other things, we will build the wall!”
Mr. Trump has given few details about his promise for a border wall, a project that is estimated to cost at least $10 billion and possibly much more. Congressional Republicans have been mulling appropriating funds in spending legislation that must pass by April to keep the government funded, but Mr. Trump may be able to divert funds from other projects to begin work sooner.
President Donald Trump said he plans to announce his Supreme Court pick next week, moving to fill a longstanding vacancy. Mr. Trump will meet with a group of Senate leaders Tuesday afternoon.
The idea also faces numerous logistical and environmental hurdles. Experts in border security have never advocated such a project before, preferring a combination of targeted fencing with other security measures.
The other executive actions on immigration were possible for later in the week. That includes a ban on entry, which was expected to include Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya, one person familiar with the planning said. During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump initially said he would ban entry by Muslims but later modified his proposal to call for suspending visas to people from any place “where adequate screening cannot occur.”
Mr. Trump also planned to implement new tests of those applying for visas, part of the “extreme vetting” promised during his presidential campaign, one of these people said. The new vetting was expected to ban anyone who has persecuted people of other religions or engaged in so-called honor killing, violence against women or oppressed a member of one race, gender or sexual orientation, according to a summary of the plan.
The people familiar with planning said Mr. Trump was expected to suspend the refugee program entirely. One person said the suspension would be set for 120 days so that officials could determine which nationalities pose the least risk.
Mr. Trump plans to end the Syrian refugee program and suspend the issuance of all visas from Syria until some later date, this person said.
The president has authority to unilaterally determine how many refugees the U.S. will accept. Once the refugee program resumes, the annual cap would be set at 50,000 for this fiscal year, one person familiar with the plans said. Former President Barack Obama had set the cap at 110,000 refugees for this year.
Mr. Trump has said that to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis, the U.S. would help create safe zones in the region as an alternative to admitting refugees to the U.S. That plan was expected to be included in the Trump package.
Establishing safe zones could be difficult, likely requiring ground troops and air power to protect them, and could put U.S.-allied forces in dangerous proximity to foreign troops, including Russian- and Assad regime-backed forces.
A few days after the December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., Mr. Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Later, his campaign modified that to say he would insist on “extreme vetting” for people trying to enter the U.S. from countries that have higher threats of terrorism, and would ban their entry until such a system could be put into place.
One of the San Bernardino attackers, Tashfeen Malik, moved to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, as did many of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists. If Mr. Trump makes it more difficult for people from that country to enter the U.S., he could risk souring relations with a major U.S. ally.
Another conundrum is that some of the most deadly terror attacks in the U.S. in the past two years have been carried out by people born in the U.S. Ms. Malik’s husband, Syed Farook, was also involved in the mass shooting in San Bernardino, and he was born in the U.S.
Similarly, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016, was born in the U.S.
Mr. Trump isn’t expected to act on one of his most controversial promises related to immigration—ending a program that helps young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump said he would “immediately terminate” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
But this week, the White House signaled that move wasn’t coming soon.
“His priority is first and foremost focused on people who pose a threat to people in our country, to criminals, frankly,” press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. “And that’s where he wants ICE [the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency] to focus their efforts.”
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