President Donald Trump orders construction of wall on US-Mexico border
PHOENIX — President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to order the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
The border wall is intended to halt the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs coming into the United States from Mexico and was a cornerstone of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“The illegal surge across our border is harming both the U.S. and Mexico. It’s harming the safety of both of our people,” Trump said during a press conference to announce the order.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) called the wall a waste of time and resources, while U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said he supports the wall, but has some concerns.
“One of the issues though is [the order] is temporary because they’re (only in place) as long as he is the president,” Biggs said.
In an October poll, 47 percent of Arizonans said they see the border wall as a waste of money, while 34 percent support its construction.
On Wednesday, Trump said construction on the wall will begin with months.
After months of debate, it still is not clear which nation will fund the construction. Trump has estimated construction of the border wall will cost about $12 billion, although some experts have said the price tag could reach well past $38 billion.
During his campaign, Trump promised voters that Mexico would pay for the wall, but altered the plan after his inauguration. He said the building project would initially be paid for with a congressionally approved spending bill and Mexico will eventually reimburse the U.S., though he has not specified how he would guarantee payments.
“Mexico will pay for the wall, 100 percent,” Trump insisted during a major campaign immigration speech in Phoenix. “They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall.”
Mexican officials have repeatedly said their country would not pay for the wall. The president will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the White House next week.
The specifics of the wall are unclear. During his Phoenix speech, Trump said the wall would also include technology to monitor the space both “above and below” the wall, towers to be staffed by Border Patrol and aerial surveillance. He has also made various claims about the wall’s height and materials.
However, Trump has said he would settle for a simpler fence in some areas.
In claiming authority to build a wall, Trump may rely on a 2006 law that authorized several hundred miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile frontier that could let him avoid full congressional approval. That bill led to the construction of about 700 miles of various kinds of fencing designed to block both vehicles and pedestrians.
The Secure Fence Act was signed by then-President George W. Bush and the majority of the fencing in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California was built before he left office. The last remnants of fence covered by the bill were completed after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
The Trump administration also must adhere to a decades-old border treaty with Mexico that limits where and how structures can be built along the border. The 1970 treaty requires that structures cannot disrupt the flow of the rivers, which define the U.S.-Mexican border along Texas and 24 miles in Arizona, according to The International Boundary and Water Commission, a joint U.S.-Mexican agency that administers the treaty.
A Native American tribe whose reservation spans 75 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border may also become an issue. In November, Tohono O’odham Vice Chairman Verlon Jose said the wall would only be built on tribal land “over his dead body.”
The Tohono O’odham reservation begins west of Lukeville and ends east of Sasabe. It is southwest of Tucson.
Other actions signed Wednesday bolstered Border Patrol agents and ended what Republicans have argued is a catch-and-release system at the border. Currently, some immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are given notices to report back to immigration officials at a later date.
Trump’s actions mean those caught entering the country will immediately be jailed. However, the administration will have to grapple with how to pay for jail space to detain everyone and what to do with children caught crossing the border with their parents.
KTAR’s Ashley Flood and the Associated Press contributed to this report.