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Politics & Government

Trump Issues Executive Actions Targeted At Immigration

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump took the first official steps today to deliver on his campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A nation without borders is not a nation. Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders.

SHAPIRO: Trump was speaking at the Department of Homeland Security, where he signed a couple of executive orders. One's designed to beef up security at the border. The other aims to boost enforcement of immigration laws within the U.S. NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley joins us now. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us a little bit more about what's in these orders.

HORSLEY: They're wide-ranging. They call for hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, 10,000 new immigration officers. I'll just note that the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate but died in the House back in 2013 would have gone farther, boosting the Border Patrol by about 17,000 officers.

Trump also wants to revive a program called Secure Communities that effectively deputizes local law enforcement to help in finding immigrants in the country illegally. Some local officials like that authority. Others worry it sows distrust between police and immigrant communities and makes it hard to investigate other crimes. Trump's order also seeks to cut off federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities that harbor immigrants in the country illegally. And of course he wants to build that wall.

SHAPIRO: I'll note that elsewhere in the program, we're going to hear from a mayor of one of those so-called sanctuary cities. That wall - it's expected to cost as much as $15 billion. Mexico insists it won't pay. Where will the money come from?

HORSLEY: Initially, it's going to come from the U.S. Treasury. Trump wants planning for the wall to begin immediately and construction to start within a few months. So he's asking Congress to allocate funds up front, but he insisted in an interview with ABC that America will get the money back.

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TRUMP: Ultimately it will come out of what's happening with Mexico. We're going to be starting those negotiations relatively soon, and we will be, in a form, reimbursed by Mexico.

HORSLEY: Now, that's going to be a bone of contention when the Mexican president visits Washington next week for a meeting with Trump. Enrique Pena Nieto told Trump when they met last summer there's no way Mexico's paying for this wall.

One idea Trump floated during the campaign was to put a hold on remittances - that is money that folks here in the U.S. send to Mexico - until Mexico agrees to pay up.

SHAPIRO: So this was a largely focused on border security and immigration. But this morning, the president also took some time to tweet about suspected voter fraud. What did he say?

HORSLEY: Yeah. Remember that earlier this week, Trump told congressional leaders he would have won the popular vote in November were it not for millions of illegal votes cast, repeating a false claim he'd made during the transition. He really seems stuck on this.

You know, he won the Electoral College, but he seems irritated that he lost the popular vote. And today he tweeted he wants a major investigation into voter fraud, including those who are registered in multiple states, people who remain registered to vote after they died and people who vote illegally.

SHAPIRO: Given that this is a false claim, what's to investigate?

HORSLEY: Well, we have to make a distinction between, you know, outdated registration lists - that does happen - and actual voter fraud, of which we have very little evidence. When White House Spokesman Sean Spicer was pressed on this yesterday, he downplayed the idea of an investigation, but now that the president's tweeted, Spicer says there will be a probe.

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SEAN SPICER: Look. Voting is the most sacred right that we have as Americans. This is what - it's the hallmark and the foundation of our democracy. And to ensure that we know that every person's vote counts equally as the next citizen is probably one of the greatest things that we can do.

HORSLEY: And never mind that in the Electoral College, citizens' votes don't all count equally.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

HORSLEY: But Trump tweeted that depending on what the investigation uncovers, he will strengthen voting procedures. Certainly there is room to clean up outdated voter rolls. The danger, though, would be if the government uses false fears about voter fraud as a pretext to impose new voting rules that make it hard for eligible voters to exercise their rights at the ballot box.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.