WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed two executive orders to begin the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, keeping his campaign promises to boost border security and crack down on immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
The president signed the two orders Wednesday during a ceremony at the Department of Homeland Security after honoring the department’s newly confirmed secretary, retired Gen. John Kelly.
“This is border security. We’ve been talking about this from the beginning. This is going to bring it over the top,” Trump said during the signing.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Trump said after the ceremony and signing. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its border, gets back its borders.”
Trump said he and his staff will work with the Homeland Security to begin “immediate construction on a border wall,” fulfilling one of his signature campaign promises. Though the construction of the wall could take begin in months.
Trump said Mexico and the U.S. will benefit from the border.
“We’re going to save lives on both sides of the border,” Trump said.
Trump said his administration will be working in partnership in Mexico to improve safety and economic opportunity for both countries and will have “close coordination” with Mexico to address drug smuggling.
The executive orders also seek to end sanctuary cities and the “catch and release” policy — releasing undocumented immigrants detained by federal officials before trial. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the executive action directed at sanctuary cities would strip grant funding for cities that “harbor illegal immigrants.”
Trump confirmed his plans to build the wall with federal funds and then seek reimbursement from Mexico, an idea Mexico has resisted. But negotiations, he said, would begin “relatively soon.”
“I’m telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form,” Trump said.
This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press, CNN and PIX11 Digital Producer Katherine Lam.