Democrats concerned by Trump’s executive orders on immigration

Executive orders signed by President Trump Wednesday took the first steps toward fulfilling his campaign promises to radically overhaul immigration policy in the U.S.

The orders add thousands of new border patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, and cut off federal grants for “sanctuary cities.” Orders expected later in the week will reportedly halt acceptance of most refugees and stop granting visas to people from several Middle Eastern countries.

One order signed Wednesday also directs federal resources toward building the wall on the Mexican border that Trump has claimed is necessary since his campaign announcement in 2015.

Trump said in an interview with ABC’s David Muir that construction will begin “as soon as we can physically do it,” possibly within months. He also insisted that, while U.S. taxpayer dollars will go into the project at first, the money will somehow be paid back by Mexico.

“Ultimately it will come out of what’s happening with Mexico…We will be in a form reimbursed by Mexico,” he said.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced the orders at a press briefing Wednesday.

“Building this barrier is more than just a campaign promise. It’s a common sense first step to really securing our southern border,” Spicer said.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a freshman Democrat from Nevada, disagrees.

“Building a wall is not going to solve anything,” he said in an interview on Capitol Hill, noting that many undocumented immigrants entered legally and overstayed visas and that existing sections of walls and hundreds of miles of existing fencing have not stopped illegal immigration.

According to Kihuen, Trump’s extreme rhetoric on the issue has been “dividing our country” without solving any problems.

“This executive action is part of the anti-immigrant, divisive rhetoric that the president has talked about for the last year and a half,” he said.

He agreed that border protection needs to be improved as part of a broader immigration reform plan, but he believes undocumented immigrants should be provided with some path to citizenship.

“Most of these folks are honest people who are contributing to our country… They should have an equal opportunity for the American dream,” he said.

Kihuen, an immigrant who came to the U.S. at age 8, does not support outright amnesty for the undocumented, but he does want it to be easier for immigrants to integrate with society.

“My family is a perfect example of what can happen when you give an immigrant family a chance to succeed in America,” he said.

Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., is concerned about the wall proposal, particularly if Trump treats it as a substitute for more comprehensive reforms.

“This country is in desperate need of immigration reform, reform that focuses on how do we strengthen our economy, how do we protect families, and how do we ensure our national security,” Brown said. “One wall doesn’t do it.”

He supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and he suggested immigration policy should be geared toward covering gaps in the workforce that Americans cannot fill.

“What we shouldn’t focus on, and what I’m afraid the president is focused on, is breaking up families, deputizing local law enforcement to comb the streets in our communities to find families to deport,” Brown said. “That’s scary, that’s dangerous, and that’s the kind of policy that we need to oppose here in Congress.”

According to Kihuen, that is exactly what Democrats plan to do.

“We’re ready to push back, we’re ready to speak up and fight back,” he said.

Although Trump spoke of creating a deportation force during the campaign and at times claimed he would deport all 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, the orders signed Wednesday prioritize targeting those who have committed crimes after entering the country.

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