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President Trump’s first actions on immigration will be exactly as harsh as he promised

The consequences will be heartbreaking.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump is set to sign a series of executive orders on Wednesday and Thursday to make immigrants within the United States fear for their lives and to severely restrict migration from other countries.

According to media reports, Trump is expected to sign executive orders on Wednesday to begin constructing of a border wall and to limit federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities, in reference to cities where local law enforcement can choose to limit its cooperation with federal immigration authorities after suspected undocumented immigrants are detained.

According to legislative aides who work for members of Congress, Trump is also expected to empower immigration officials to detain all immigrants caught at the border, prevent asylum seekers from entering the country, access federal lands to secure the southern U.S. border, and prioritize the deportation of criminal immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials will also be able to pursue immigrants through aggressive deportation raids. Trump’s order would also create an advocacy office for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. (That office, the Victim Notification Program, already exists.)

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Then, on Thursday, Trump will reportedly sign a harsh executive order to crack down on Muslims and refugees fleeing war-torn countries.

Trump will reportedly stop Syrians from entering the country through the refugee resettlement program, and may suspend the United States’ refugee resettlement program altogether while officials figure out which other countries to exclude. Trump also plans to cap the number of worldwide refugee admissions to 50,000 in the 2017 fiscal year — 60,000 fewer slots than the Obama administration allocated for the same time period.

White House reports also indicate that Trump will suspend visas issued for people entering the United States from countries “of particular concern.” Immigration experts expect that visas would be banned for people looking to travel to the United States from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

The Trump administration will also rely on a 2011 White House presidential proclamation to suspend the entry of people who violate human rights and other humanitarian laws. Of particular note, immigration officials will prohibit the admission of people who engage in bigotry, honor killings, and violence against women, as well as people who persecute or oppress others based on religion, gender, sexual orientation.

It is easy to sensationalize the coverage of honor killings and gruesome beheadings and attribute these acts to Muslim-majority countries. But, as is the case with most religious groups, there are also 1.3 billion Muslims in the world who are generally peaceful and regularly condemn terror attacks perpetrated by groups like ISIS.

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Immigrant and refugees have long been a target for Trump, who blamed them for the 2016 attacks in France and the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. Throughout his campaign, Trump repeatedly called for a total ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, which at times was defined to include Muslim Americans living abroad. He also repeatedly promised to enforce “extreme vetting” of Syrian refugees hoping to enter the United States, claiming that it was impossible to know whether there would be terrorists posing as “Trojan horses” looking to harm Americans.

However, this indicates a lack of understanding about how resettlement actually works. The refugee resettlement process typically takes anywhere between 18 and 24 months, a process that involves background checks from various governmental and security agencies where case officers are trained to recognize lies and fake passports. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees — not the refugees themselves — make the ultimate decision about which country they are placed in.

This vetting process has worked well so far. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled almost 800,000 refugees, and only three have been arrested for activities related to terrorism.

Seriously limiting refugee resettlement to Syrians and for people from majority-Muslim countries could harm people fleeing conflict zones in places like Syria, where peace talks have crumbled in recent days. According to UN statistics, about 70 percent of Syrian refugees are women and children. The United States only took in 10,000 Syrian refugees last year, a far cry from the two million taken in by Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Turkey has also taken in 2.8 million Syrians.

It’s unclear how senior members of Trump’s administration will respond to his executive orders. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s presumptive Attorney General nominee, has previously said that he would not support a ban specific to Muslims, but that he would support limiting travel by citizens from countries that have been compromised by terrorism. And Department of Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly — who has taken a more moderate stance on limiting Muslim immigration — has said that religion shouldn’t be the “only factor” to limiting entry to individuals from Muslim-majority countries.