Posted by Ali Albassam on February 03, 2017 in Blog

President Trump ushered in the first week of his presidency with 12 sweeping executive orders covering topics from immigration, to healthcare and trade in an attempt to make good on his ambitious campaign promises. 

Below you can familiarize yourself with some of the most controversial executive orders, their feasibility and the problems they pose for Americans. For ways that you can make a difference in your community check out our Advocacy Road Map


Border Wall

One of Candidate Trump’s biggest campaign promises was to "build the wall" along the U.S.- Mexican border to keep "illegals" out. On January 25th 2017, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to "immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border" and identify funding for the project, including sending budget requests to Congress. It also directs agencies to construct or contract out for more detention facilities at or near the Mexican border.

Why it’s a problem: The wall is projected to cost tax payers $15-$25 billion dollars and comes at a time when illegal border crossings are at a 40-year low and more Mexicans are actually leaving the U.S. than entering it. In essence, the U.S. would be spending billions on a wall that would create more problems than it solves.

According to Rep. Hurd, whose district covers hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexican border, "The facts have not changed. Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border." He argues that many areas in his district demonstrate "perfect examples of where a wall is unnecessary and would negatively impact the environment, private property rights and economy."

At a Republican retreat in Philadelphia, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he would allocate $12-$15 billion for the construction of the wall. He followed that statement by reasserting the fact that he was a "fiscal conservative."


Ending Sanctuary Cities

On January 25th 2017, President Trump signed an executive order denying federal funding to sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.

Specifically, it calls on "the Attorney General and the [Homeland Security] Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, to "ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”

Why it's a problem: Depending on how this order is carried out, it could potentially be unconstitutional. The federal government can only withhold grants if the condition is relevant to the purpose of the grant. A stronger argument can be made if new conditions are added on existing funds. The tenth amendment of the U.S. constitution stipulates that the federal government cannot coerce state and local governments to implement the President's policies. This was reasserted in 1997, when the supreme court ruled on Printz v. United States. In his majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the Tenth Amendment prohibited the federal government from “commandeering” the "forced participation of the State's executive in the actual administration of a federal program."

The executive order will essentially threaten federal funding to any jurisdiction that doesn’t cooperate. Mayors of sanctuary cities responded with fierce resistance. Mayor de Blasio of New York City argued, “We’re going to defend all of our people regardless of where they come from, regardless of their immigration status.”

Several mayors in the Bay Area issued a joint statement in response to the order as well. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stated defiantly that "We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding.” Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf argued that the Bay Area "stands united against this White House’s morally bankrupt policies that would divide families, turn our nation’s back on refugees in need, and potentially thwart the efforts of nearly one million productive young people who are on a legal path to citizenship."

Unfortunately, not every sanctuary city Mayor resisted, Miami-Dade County mayor Gimenez complied immediately citing that his county could not afford to miss out on $355 million in federal funds.


Suspending refugee admission and the "Muslim Ban"

On January 27th 2017, President Trump ordered the suspension of admission of refugees from any country for 120 days, and suspend the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, cutting the total number of refugees allowed in FY 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000, with priority to "religious minorities."

The order also suspends immigrant and nonimmigrant entry to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries –Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and, Yemen from entering the US with visas for at least 90 days.

Why it’s a problem: There are currently over sixty million displaced refugees worldwide - the highest number in recorded history. The civil war in Syria has been the single largest driver of refugees in the world, leaving nearly 5 million Syrians displaced outside of Syria. The majority of displaced Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and many have even risked their lives via the Mediterranean en route to Europe. This executive order not only undermines America's most cherished values, but also goes against our commitment to the UN Refugee convention at a time when protection for the world's most vulnerable population is needed most.

Furthermore, this executive order fails to effectively counter terrorism. Charles Kurzman, a Professor of Sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who specializes in Middle East and Islamic studies conducted a study that sought to discover the potential terrorist threat from immigrants in the seven Muslim countries in Trump's executive order. Kurzman found that “there have been no fatalities in the United States caused by extremists with family backgrounds in these countries.”

Policymakers have warned that this executive order can potentially play into the hands of terrorists that will use this as a propaganda tool for recruitment of new members. In a joint statement, Senator Graham and Senator McCain |cautioned that this order could serve as a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” and “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

[Click here for legal resources and updates to this executive order]


Speeding approval of Dakota Access and Keystone Oil Pipelines

Just a month after President Obama blocked the DAPL, President Trump reversed course, signing an executive order that moves to expedite the review and approval of the DAPL's construction and operation.

The DAPL is a proposed 1,100-mile pipeline linking the North Dakota oil fields to a river terminal in Illinois, delivering around 450,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

The order also prompts TransCanada Keystone Pipeline to re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit, a permit which President Obama previously denied due to environmental concerns.

Why it’s a problem: Pipelines carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil a day pose an environmental risk, and have been subject to several disastrous oil leaks in the past. When it was announced that a segment of the pipeline would go through Sioux County and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, there was immediate concern of contamination. The pipeline would cross Lake Oahe, meaning that any spill or leak would contaminate the community's main source of drinking water for over 8,000 of its residents.

The company originally proposed a route near Bismarck that was rejected due to its proximity to the state capital’s municipal drinking-water wells, indicating a glaring double-standard. The tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Reservation, Dave Archambault II, has been vocal in pointing out the implicit bias in this decision, stating, “This pipeline was rerouted towards our tribal nations when other citizens of North Dakota rightfully rejected it in the interests of protecting their communities and water. We seek the same consideration as those citizens."


Dismantling Obamacare

On the very same day he was sworn into office, President Trump signed an executive order which calls on his administration to “take all actions consistent with the law” to “ease the burden of Obamacare.” It instructs the heads of all executive departments and agencies to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” parts of the Affordable Care Act that put financial burdens on individuals, families, health-care providers, medications or states.

Why it’s a problem: While the executive order itself is ambiguous and vaguely written, it has the potential to affect millions of Americans. If Obamacare is repealed without an immediate replacement, over 29.8 million Americans could become uninsured. By 2019, that number is projected to rise by 103%, according to the Urban Institute.

Larry Levitt, who serves as the senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on national health issues argues that the biggest potential effect of this order would be the "widespread waivers from the individual mandate, which would likely create chaos in the individual insurance market.”