Shock was the reaction many experienced when Donald Trump was announced as the next US president on November 8 last year. But as the dust settled and the wait for the inauguration was on, the question arose as to whether his policies could actually be as extreme as his campaign rhetoric.
However, one week into his presidency, it’s been confirmed that there really is tyrant in the Oval office. In his first week, Trump signed several highly xenophobic executive orders.
An executive order is not as strong as a law. It’s a statement of how the rules under a policy of the administration will be followed. And these orders can be overturned quite easily by a following president.
The Mexican border wall
Amongst the executive orders Trump revealed was the Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements order. Released on January 25, this is the order calling for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
The border wall was a campaign promise it was hard to believe would ever see the light of day. When Trump first promised it in June 2015, it was using rhetoric that branded some Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.”
The purpose of the policy is to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall.” The president said in an ABC News interview that construction will start within the next few months and again made the claim that Mexico would foot the bill.
In response to the announcement, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled his visit to the US scheduled for this week and said his country wouldn’t be paying for the wall.
But, the Trump administration finally revealed how they expect to get their southern neighbours to pay for the wall last Friday. A 20 percent tax is going to be placed on all products being imported across the border.
An end to safe havens for illegal immigrants
On the same day the border wall order was signed, Trump also produced another anti-immigration executive order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.
This order provides that federal funding will be slashed to so-called sanctuary cities that continue to refuse to obey federal immigration laws.
Sanctuary cities and states are jurisdictions that offer shelter to undocumented immigrants. Among these jurisdictions are the cities of New York, Chicago and Washington DC.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States wilfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal,” the order declares and goes onto claim that these cities are causing “immeasurable harm” to the nation, as “many of these aliens are criminals.”
Funding will be cut to the police budget of these cities and if this doesn’t make the jurisdictions fall into line, Trump is preparing to publicly shame them. He plans to make a “comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in these areas, however, it’s not clear as to how this list will be publicly catalogued.
A Muslim ban
And Trump went on to deliver a further executive order last Friday which sent shock waves around the globe. The Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States order effectively amounts to a ban on Muslims.
The order places a ban on nationals from seven Muslim majority nations from entering the United States. People from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen cannot enter the States for the period of 90 days, while those fleeing war-torn Syria are banned indefinitely.
It initially included preventing all Green card holders from these nations, who were currently out of the United States, from re-entering the country. A Green card holder is a permanent resident permitted to live and work in the country.
But, this week, the Trump administration made an about-face on this measure and the card holders will now be allowed back in.
This ban has been made under the pretext of the threat of terrorism. Although, according to the Cato Institute, no Americans have been killed on US soil by a citizen from any of these nations between 1975 and 2015.
However, most of these countries have been invaded or overthrown by the US in the past, and six out of the seven of them are currently being bombed by the States.
The order has also suspended the US Refugee Admissions Program for the period of 120 days. No refugees will be allowed to enter the US until the Trump administration reinstates the program. At that time, they will only be allowing nationals to enter from countries they believe can be properly vetted.
The total number of refugees allowed to enter the US during the current fiscal year will be 50,000, down more than half on the previous year, which saw 110,000 allowed in.
Trump’s international business interests
But questions remain as to what’s really behind Trump’s ban on Muslims, as there are many more Islamic nations throughout the world that don’t fall under its provisions. And the new president and long-time business tycoon has investments in some of these nations.
Citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are all exempt from the ban. But the Cato Institute statistics reveal that 3,000 Americans have been killed on US soil by citizens of these nations during the period between 1975 and 2015.
Trump registered eight companies tied to hotel interests in Saudi Arabia in late 2015. However, most of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi nationals.
The president has two companies listed in Egypt, while in the United Arab Emirates he has two golf course ventures and a neighbourhood of luxury villas which are currently under construction. And both of these nations are said to have the presence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
A sense of foreboding
It remains unclear as to what will happen after the ban on citizens from the seven Muslim countries comes to an end. And it remains to be seen whether the ambitious Mexico border wall will ever be built.
But, it’s certain that the Trump administration is causing deep racial divisions both within its borders and internationally. And the impact of these divisions is sure to have long lasting effects as we enter into this new era.
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.