Week One In The U.S: Walls, Refugees

Jan 30, 2017 By Deepa Gopal
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Over the last week, you may have heard of a wall with Mexico and protests at U.S airports.

Week one of Trump presidency in the U.S has been anything but peaceful. After President Trump assumed office on January 20, 2017, he issued a flurry of executive orders and presidential memoranda.

Some executive orders were intended to change laws such as the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare to millions of uninsured people. Others were intended to make good on his promise to his supporters to create a wall across the U.S-Mexico border, and ban refugees and immigrants from some Muslim countries.

So what exactly are Executive Orders? Are we going to see a wall with Mexico soon? Lets find out. 

What are Executive Orders?

The U.S Government has three branches - the Executive branch (President, Vice President and his cabinet), the Legislative branch (Congress) and the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court and other federal courts). The Congress makes laws, the President and his cabinet carry out the laws, and the courts evaluate the laws to make sure they are legal. 

However, the President is also given the authority to issue orders -- usually when the Congress does not agree with his wishes. Think of executive orders as policy or instructions on what the President would like to get done. Many Presidents in their incoming weeks issue executive orders which reverse orders made by the outgoing President and introduce new ones. Did you know that the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln was an executive order!

What is the difference between an Executive Order and a Law?

An executive order does not mean the President is making a new law or can authorize money. Laws take time to be pass and can only be done by Congress. Once a law is passed, it has to be upheld by every President, and changes to the laws will have to go through Congress.

Executive orders, on the other hand, are flimsy. They can be overruled by another President, and can be struck down by federal courts for violating the Constitution. In fact, there is an executive order by ex-President Ronald Reagan that is still approved or rejected by each new President!  

Will we be seeing a wall with Mexico soon?

Not yet. The construction of the wall could cost $20 billion or more, and can only happen if Congress can find money to fund it. President Trump in his campaign had suggested that Mexico would pay. However, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who canceled his visit to the White House, has said that he does not believe in walls. 

The other executive order to block people from seven Muslim countries caused confusion at airports. Many of the people arriving from these countries were residents of the U.S or had legal permits. The immigration agencies were unprepared, and scrambled to send people back. Meanwhile, protestors gathered at airports, and a federal judge in New York blocked parts of Trump's order, allowing legal visa holders to enter. Many companies such as Facebook, Google, Nike and others have also objected to the immigration ban.

While President Trump has issued these and other orders, he has not involved the responsible agencies in each case. All executive orders will also need to be reviewed by the Justice Department. Only time will tell which of these will actually turn into action.