World

Wall upsets Mexico, will cost billions and won't do the job

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered work to begin on building a wall across the Mexican border, angering his southern neighbour with his hard-line stance on immigration.

He instructed officials to begin to "plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border" and - perhaps more problematically - see how it could be funded.

"A nation without borders is not a nation," Mr Trump said, echoing former president Ronald Reagan, as he visited the Department of Homeland Security to sign two executive orders.

"Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders,"he said.

Hours later, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto demanded "respect" for his country in a televised address.

"I regret and condemn the decision of the US to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us," Mr Pena Nieto said.

"I have said it time and time again: Mexico will not pay for any wall."

A Mexican government official said Mr Pena Nieto will weigh in the coming days whether to maintain a meeting with Mr Trump on Tuesday.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday said 47 per cent of voters support building a wall, with 45 per cent against.

Experts have voiced doubts about whether a wall would actually slow illegal immigration, or if it is worth the billions it is expected to cost.

"I suspect a lot of Trump supporters would be just as happy with a big statue of a middle finger pointed south," said Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

"Both are about equally effective as national security strategies."

Despite the high-octane rhetoric, Mr Trump's action was piecemeal, looking to identify existing funds that could be diverted toward the project.

The Republican-controlled Congress would need to supply billions more if the wall is to be completed.

Mr Trump's party has spent the last decade preaching fiscal prudence, so cuts to existing programmes would likely be required.

He also ordered a survey of the border to be completed within 180 days. Much of the land needed to build the wall would have to be seized from private citizens in Texas, the state of Texas or tribal authorities. - AFP

Executive actions Trump has taken so far

WASHINGTON: Since being sworn in last Friday, US President Donald Trump has moved swiftly and signed a number of executive orders to roll back predecessor Barack Obama's agenda.

FRIDAY, JAN 20

Mr Trump signed his first executive order targeting Mr Obama's signature healthcare reform plan. The order gave federal agencies broad powers to unwind regulations created under the Affordable Care Act - also known as Obamacare - including enforcement of penalty for people who fail to carry the health insurance that the law requires of most Americans.

MONDAY, JAN 23

He signed an executive order to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, distancing the US from its Asian allies as China's influence in the region rises. He said the pact will take jobs away from Americans and called the withdrawal "a great thing" for American workers.

Mr Trump also signalled his intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Accord with Canada and Mexico. He warned he will ditch the pact unless the US gets "a fair deal".

TUESDAY, JAN 24

He signed orders smoothing the path for the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, in a move to expand energy infrastructure and roll back key environmental actions of the Obama administration. The Keystone XL pipeline links Canadian oil sands in Alberta to refineries on the US Gulf coast. Mr Obama had blocked construction of a section of the pipeline for environmental reasons. As for the North Dakota pipeline project, the permit of Energy Transfer Partners was blocked after native Americans protested that it could contaminate water resources.

Mr Trump, who has said he is pro-life, also reinstated a rule that bans US foreign aid money from going to overseas non-government organisations that advocate abortion rights.

He also froze hiring of new federal workers, except for positions in national security, public safety and the military. He said the directive is a stop-gap way to control the growth of the government until his budget director recommends a plan to significantly reduce the federal workforce through attrition.

WEDNESDAY, JAN 25

Mr Trump ordered the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border to reduce illegal immigration.  

He pledged to hire 10,000 more immigration officers and to revoke federal grant money to "sanctuary cities" which refuse to deport undocumented immigrants. Cities such as New York and Los Angeles offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants.

Federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could now be at risk.

Source: AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg; Compiled by The Straits Times

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