WASHINGTON — In a week dedicated to reassuring his supporters that he intends to deliver on campaign promises, President Donald Trump signed executive orders Wednesday to beef up immigration and border enforcement.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Trump declared before a cheering room of Department of Homeland Security staffers. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders.”
The first order mandates a continuous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents.
The second order would allow Washington to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts against undocumented immigrants that have fallen into the criminal justice system.
At a packed daily press briefing before Trump’s visit to Homeland Security, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked what the administration planned to do if sanctuary cities decide to forfeit federal funds rather than cooperate with immigration enforcement.
American taxpayers, Spicer answered, “will no longer be forced to subsidize this disregard of our laws.”
Sanctuary city status became a pivotal campaign issue in the 2016 presidential election after an undocumented immigrant with seven felony convictions and five deportations in his record was charged with shooting San Franciscan Kate Steinle as she strolled on the city’s waterfront with her father. Citing the city’s sanctuary city law, San Francisco’s then-sheriff had released Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, who has pleaded not guilty in the murder, rather than turn him over to immigration officials for deportation.
In the shooting’s aftermath, San Francisco City Hall refused to rescind the policy. Trump’s order is not likely to prompt officials in San Francisco or other sanctuary jurisdictions to change course.
NO VEGAS SANCTUARY
Las Vegas has no sanctuary city ordinance per se, but Senior Public Information Officer Jace Radke said the Las Vegas Municipal Police Department does have a policy not to detain people on immigration holds.
“Metro will only hold illegal immigrants for probable cause, or if they are wanted on an existing warrant,” Radke said in a statement. “This is how they would treat anyone else under the law.”
Francisco Morales, Nevada state director for the Center for Community Action, is concerned that Trump’s executive order encourages local law enforcement to act as an extension of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and enforce immigration law.
“We know that these programs do not work,” Morales said. “These programs do more harm to a community than good because they inflict a lot of fear among not just undocumented immigrants but all immigrants in general, and they basically paint the local police department, which is in charge of public safety, as an extension or an arm of ICE.”
Jacob Deaville, co-founder and acting treasurer for UNLV Campus Conservatives, which has opposed the push to make the university a sanctuary campus, said his group is pleased with Trump’s executive order ending federal funding for sanctuary cities.
“Blatantly disregarding federal law cannot happen anymore,” Deaville said. “If sanctuary cities don’t want to follow federal laws, they shouldn’t get federal funding.”
UNLV student Jazz Sheffer, a representative of the UndocuNetwork at UNLV, took the opposite view. Her group joined with other students, groups and professors in pushing for UNLV to be named a sanctuary campus.
“With his move on sanctuary cities, it seems like a lose-lose situation, economically, for the cities,” she said. “Either money has to be siphoned to fund anti-immigration witch hunts, or it’s siphoned out completely. If the Trump administration chooses to follow through, I think it’s a pretty cruel idea.”
THE BORDER WALL
The executive order for the wall was signed on the day that Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign minister, arrived in Washington to prepare for a visit next week by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Trump has claimed Mexico will pay for the border wall, even though Mexican officials have scoffed at the idea.
Mark Krikorian of the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies praised Trump for doing what he said he would do as a candidate. Krikorian thinks Trump placed more emphasis on the wall “than is warranted.” But if the wall is not as effective as supporters might hope, at least it provides “a visual assertion of American sovereignty.”
Security expert Adam Isacson of the pro-sanctuary Washington Office on Latin America argued that a wall “will have no impact on migration and even less impact on drug trafficking.” Also, it sends a terrible message to Mexico.
The group opposes Trump’s sanctuary city order, Isacson added, because it forces “local authorities to enforce federal law.”
Krikorian sees the sanctuary city order as an opening move. Cities like New York and Los Angeles “are not going to fold just because he’s going to withhold funding,” Krikorian predicted. This will take years, he said.
Staff writers Gary Martin, Natalie Bruzda and Lucy Hood contributed to this report.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at email@example.com or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.