Trump set to start his great wall plans

US Border Patrol agent Erika King at the fence separating the US from Mexico in El Paso, Texas. Stemming immigration was a central plank of Mr Trump's election campaign, and his signature policy was to build a wall
US Border Patrol agent Erika King at the fence separating the US from Mexico in El Paso, Texas. Stemming immigration was a central plank of Mr Trump's election campaign, and his signature policy was to build a wall across the 3,200km-long border with Mexico.PHOTO: REUTERS

US leader to sign order for Mexico border wall among series of actions on immigration and national security

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump was set to take a first step towards enacting his pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border as part of immigration- related directives to be rolled out this week.

The border wall would be the first in a series of actions aimed at cracking down on immigrants and bolstering national security.

These include slashing the number of refugees who can resettle in the US to 50,000 from 100,000 a year, and blocking Syrians and others from "terror-prone" nations from entering, at least temporarily.

"Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow," Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday night.

"Among many other things, we will build the wall!"

  • Barrier to curb illegal immigrants

  • US President Donald Trump has vowed to build a wall at the country's southern border with Mexico. Here is a look at the key facets of the proposal.

    WHY DOES TRUMP WANT A WALL?

    Mr Trump has railed against the impact of uncontrolled immigration into the United States, infamously alleging in one of his speeches on the campaign trail that immigrants from Mexico were rapists and involved in drug trafficking and other crimes. He believes that building the wall will prevent immigrants from entering the country.

    WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE ?

    Mr Trump said in February last year that the wall will have to be only 1,609km long because of natural barriers like mountains. This would be about half the length of the US border with Mexico. He has said it will be 10.6m to 12.2m high. It has been estimated that building the wall would require about 9.6 million cubic m of concrete, said the BBC.

    WHAT WILL IT COST?

    The cost estimates floated by Mr Trump for building the wall have varied: He has suggested in different interviews that it would cost US$8 billion (S$11.3 billion), US$10 billion and US$12 billion. But The Washington Post has estimated that the costwould be closer to US$25 billion.

    WHO WILL PAY FOR IT?

    Mr Trump's campaign website says Mexico will pay for the wall. The site also lists a few ways to make Mexico pay for it, including cancelling visas, adding visa fees and enforcing trade tariffs. With Mexico consistently stating that it will not pay for the border wall, Mr Trump is likely to seek alternative ways to extract the required funds.

He was due to sign the executive order for the wall during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security yesterday.

His actions come as Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray arrived in Washington to prepare for the visit this month of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Among the actions are plans for hiring 5,000 more US border agents and a call for local law enforcement to work with the federal immigration authorities, according to two congressional aides who could not be named.

The orders also include reviewing whether to resume the once secret "black site" detention programme, keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay and designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, according to people who have seen the orders.

According to a draft, the order on detention policies would start a review of "whether to reinstate the programme of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States, and whether such a programme should include the use of detention facilities operated by the CIA".

But one section of the draft would require that "no person in the custody of the US shall at any time be subjected to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as described by US or international law".

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

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

The expected actions drew strong criticism from immigrant advocates and human rights groups.

Stemming immigration was a central plank of Mr Trump's election campaign, and his signature policy was to build a wall across the 3,200km-long border with Mexico.

Some of the border is already fenced, but Mr Trump says a wall is needed to stop illegal immigrants from entering from Latin America.

Experts have voiced doubts about whether a wall would actually stem illegal immigration, or if it is worth spending billions of dollars on a wall when there are cheaper methods, such as electronic surveillance, of achieving similar results.

Mr Trump had promised to make "Mexico pay" for the wall, something the Mexican government has repeatedly said that it will not do.

NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSESEE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Trump set to start his great wall plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe