Donald Trump campaigned heavily on immigration issues, making at least 13 promises throughout the election about immigration actions he would take on Day One and, in some cases, in the first hour of his tenure.
In reviewing Trump’s statements throughout the campaign, VOA identified seven main themes to those Day One immigration promises. As of late Monday afternoon, Trump had not carried out any of them.
When asked during a news conference Monday afternoon about three of those issues, White House spokesman Sean Spicer skirted specifics, saying only that a border wall will be built “as soon as possible,” and declining to offer details on when the executive order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy would be revoked. DACA protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Answering a reporter about the status of the refugee resettlement program, which Trump had vowed to immediately change, Spicer responded that he didn’t know, and instead deflected the question to the U.S. State Department, which oversees the program. The State Department has not yet responded to VOA’s request for comment on the status of the refugee program, though arrivals continued throughout the weekend.
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, an organization that, like Trump, advocates for more restrictive immigration policies, said he expects a “steady stream of announcements” from the new administration, “some of which are more difficult.”
“For example unwinding certain elements of these policies on criminal alien priorities, enforcing priorities, state and local enforcement agreements can take some time …,” he told VOA. “But things like the wall and the vetting order, for example, should come very quickly.”
Between Trump’s missed initial deadlines and scant details from the White House spokesman Monday, there is little clarity about when any of the immigration policy changes may come.
That uncertainty makes people like Juan Escalante, a DACA recipient, skittish about his future in the United States.
Speaking at a public event Monday afternoon on Capitol Hill, Escalante told the audience that he does not have any confidence that the White House will not dismantle the deferred action program.
“Until I see something that has changed in the communication from the White House, whatever that may be, that the DACA program will stay in place until a type of legislation is reached upon and signed by the president that allows me to continue to contribute to my community, I will still live under the … fear that it could be taken away,” he said.
Escalante, who is the digital campaign manager of America’s Voice, which advocates for immigrant rights, added that he will not “go back to the shadows” and that he is ready to push for legislation and continue his advocacy work.
This was Trump’s most frequent Day 1 immigration promise, though he did not specify how it would be put into action. “His was not a campaign of laying out the details of legislation,” said Roy Beck of the restrictionist immigration advocacy group Numbers USA.
“…(m)any of those gangs are made up of illegal immigrants, and they’re tough dudes. And by the way, they’re going — day one they’re going to be out of here.” (CNN, 9/24/15)
“Day one of my administration we’re getting all of the criminals out… Gang members, heads of cartels, drug members and they lead all sorts of drug gangs… they’re all getting out.” (Manchester, NH, 8/25/16)
“These international gangs of thugs and drug cartels will be I promise you from the first day in office, the first thing I’m going to do, the first piece of paper I’m going to sign is we are going to get rid of these people day one…” (Joni Ernst Roast and Ride, IA, 8/27/16)
“According to federal data, there are at least 2 million (criminal aliens). We will begin moving them out day one as soon as I take office, day one… Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone!” (Phoenix, AZ, 8/31/16)
“You know the local police know every one of the bad ones, it’s not like, ‘Oh gee, let’s figure out who it is.’ …As soon as I will be in office for one hour and that order will go out. We’re getting them the hell out of the country.” (Interview with David Muir, 9/5/16)
Promise 2: Revoke Obama’s executive orders
The Obama administration issued executive orders on immigration that focused on undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, and on prioritizing cases for arrest and deportation.
“You know Obama signed an executive order then said everybody come in. …the first minute in office I will countersign and revoke those executive orders.” (Sioux City, IA, 10/27/15)
Promise 3: Implement “extreme vetting” and end immigration from “terror-prone” countries
The Trump administration has not designated what areas qualify as “terror-prone”; there are already vetting procedures in place for immigrants and even more stringent ones for refugees.
“Additionally, on the first day… We’re going to suspend immigration from terror-prone regions, where vetting cannot safely occur.” (Gettysburg, PA, 10/22/16)
“As soon as I enter office, I am going to ask the Department of State… Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to begin a comprehensive review of these cases in order to develop a list of regions and countries from which immigration must be suspended until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put in place. I call it extreme vetting, right?” (Phoenix, AZ, 8/31/16)
Promise 4: Start building “the wall”
There are already natural and man-made barriers between the U.S. and Mexico; Reuters reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff identified about one-fifth of the 1,954-mile border could be the site for a fence or wall.
“On day one we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall.” (Phoenix, AZ, 8/31/16)
Promise 5: Cut off Syrian refugee arrivals
Trump could cut all or part of the 110,000 planned refugee arrivals for the current fiscal year. Just over 4,600 Syrians are among the more than 30,000 refugees who have arrived since Oct. 1.
“That’s why my first day in office, I will immediately suspend the admission of Syrian refugees.” (Toledo, OH, 9/21/16)
Promise 6: Cancel funding to sanctuary cities
Cities around the U.S. have declared themselves “sanctuaries,” places where undocumented immigrants can count on local officials to not prosecute them on federal immigration laws.
“(O)n the first day… we will cancel all federal funding of sanctuary cities.” (Gettysburg, PA, 10/22/16)
Promise 7: Create a three-strike system of deportation and imprisonment for undocumented immigrants
Trump follows a legacy of heavy deportations by Obama, who was criticized in immigrants’ rights circles with the title “Deporter-in-Chief.”
“We’re putting very, very strong language in, it will be submitted, first day I’m in office. When they come in once, we deport them. When they come in twice, they go to jail for five years. When they come in another one, it will be 10 years.” (Jacksonville, FL, 11/3/16)
“On my first day in office, I am also going to ask Congress to pass ‘Kate’s Law’ – named for Kate Steinle – to ensure that criminal aliens convicted of illegal reentry face receive strong mandatory minimum sentences.” (Phoenix, AZ, 8/31/16)