A Breakdown of Trump’s Executive Actions on Immigration

Less than a week into his presidency, Donald Trump has signed executive orders jumpstarting a wall along the Mexico – U.S. border and upping federal immigration enforcement efforts. More immigration updates are expected later this week, and while we don’t know exactly what these executive actions will entail, one thing is certain: Trump is wasting no time fulfilling his promise to make life hell for immigrants and refugees. 

Here’s a breakdown of today’s actions:

Building a wall: The first executive order directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use existing funds to “build a large, physical barrier” along the U.S.-Mexico border (which, as a reminder, already partially exists). Trump’s Press Secretary says Mexico will pay for the wall, although no more specifics were offered.

More resources for the Department of Homeland Security:  Trump’s action calls for the hiring of 5,000 additional border patrol agents and triples the amount of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers (reminder: a union representing ICE endorsed Trump for office).

More detention centers: Trump’s first executive order calls for more detention space to make deportations “cheaper and easier.” We already know immigrant detention centers are not equipped to humanely hold the hundreds of people being detained in these centers, including women and children, some of whom are held for months and months on end.

Secure Communities: The second executive action reinstates the Secure Communities Program, which empowers local police officers to use fingerprints and other databases to check the legal status of people they arrest and share that information with ICE. Police cooperation with ICE harms those who are most vulnerable, especially women in domestic violence situations who often don’t report their abusers for fear they’ll be deported instead.

Sanctuary Cities: Strips federal money from sanctuary cities and establishes the publication of a weekly list of crimes purportedly committed by undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities.

“Victims Advocacy Office:” Creates a “victims advocacy office” for victims of crimes committed by undocumented migrants.

Today, Trump made it more deadly to be an immigrant in this country. Trump’s actions give more power and authority to DHS and ICE, a dangerous move that will inevitably cost immigrants their lives. No More Deaths has documented how Border Patrol agents already lack accountability and transparency, leading to an institutional culture of abuse where agents verbally, physically, and psychologically abuse detainees. Instances of sexual assault within Border Patrol are “significantly higher” than in other law enforcement agencies. Immigrants detained by ICE are often denied food, water, and proper medical attention. By increasing the number of detention centers, Trump expanded a multi-billion dollar prison industry that profits from the exploitation and disenfranchisement of immigrants, many of whom die in detention centers due to medical neglect and substandard living conditions. Making deportation “cheaper and easier” will only exacerbate the problem.

Trump boasted his executive actions “will save thousands of lives,” making it very clear whose lives he is talking about – not immigrant lives. By making people like me out to be criminals, Trump signaled that we do not belong on this side of the border and anything we do can be labeled criminal because our very existence is a criminal act. This is nothing new. The state has never seen us as worthy of protection. And as Obama’s “Felons not Families” campaign shows, some of our lives are more disposable than others.

Later this week, Trump is expected to take other immigration actions, including a ban on refugees and a multi-month ban on visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Durham, NC

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Read more about Barbara

Join the Conversation