WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump this week will order a suspension of visa issuances and a refugee ban from nations where there is a “propensity to do us harm,” the White House said on Wednesday.
The new policy will target nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all countries that have, at one point or another, been listed as state sponsors of terrorism since the State Department first began such designations in 1979. All seven nations are either Islamic states or recognize Islam as their official state religion.
Trump is also preparing an executive order that would halt all US funding to UN agencies that recognize the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization as a full member.
The move, first reported in The New York Times, would create a committee tasked with reviewing US aid to the international bodies and programs.
The order specifically calls for a review of aid to UN peacekeeping efforts.
But the terms of this executive order have already been codified in US law, according former Obama administration officials, who were compelled to cut funding to UNESCO after the body accepted “Palestine” as a full member in 2011.
At the time, Victoria Nuland, then spokeswoman for the State Department, said the US was following longstanding congressional restrictions that required an immediate halt to its aid.
One 1990 appropriations law reads: “No funds authorized to be appropriated by this act or any other act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”
Legislation in 1994 expanded on this language, barring Congress from funding “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”
The Palestinians enjoy “non-member state” status at the UN, which grants them limited operational freedoms. Washington funds roughly 22% of the UN’s overall annual budget.
Trump’s consideration of this executive order, titled “Auditing and Reducing US Funding of International Organizations,” pairs with a Senate effort to legislate similar threats against the UN over its actions targeting Israel. That effort, led by senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, gained steam after the Obama administration last month abstained from a Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlement enterprise.
The executive order would also target organizations that circumvent sanctions against Iran, or that support reproductive rights.
On Trump’s proposed seven-nation immigration ban, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump’s actions comport with his campaign promises, which evolved over time – he initially proposed a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the US homeland, but then suggested a ban targeting refugees or immigrants from specific “terror prone” countries.
His actions will now target nations with a “predisposition” to terrorism, Spicer said. “The guiding principle for the president is keeping the country safe.”
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Trump visited the Department of Homeland Security, where he signed executive orders that would begin the process of erecting a border wall with Mexico and bolstering the forces that police illegal immigration.
That would include hiring 5,000 more US Customs and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to slip across the border and tripling the number of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and deport immigrants living in the United States illegally, congressional aides with knowledge of the plan said.
The administration will also seek to end the actions of “sanctuary cities,” Spicer told a news briefing.
In cities such as San Francisco, local officials, often Democrats, refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on actions against illegal immigrants.
Trump will instruct the federal government to look into ways to stop providing certain funds to cities that refuse to comply, Spicer added.
On Twitter on Tuesday night, Trump reiterated his promise to build a wall along the roughly 3,200-kilometer US-Mexico border.
Trump has long said that he will make Mexico pay for the wall, but Mexican officials have forcefully resisted this idea.
“We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico,” Trump told ABC. “I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. What I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”
Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key element of his presidential campaign, with supporters often chanting “build the wall” during his rallies.
The cost, nature and extent of the wall remain unclear. Trump last year put the cost at “probably $8 billion,” although other estimates are higher, and said the wall would span 1,600 km. because of the terrain of the border.
Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.
The State Department also confirmed this week that it would begin a review of a transfer of $221 million to the Palestinian Authority in the final hours of the Obama administration, despite a hold on those funds mandated by Congress.
The State Department said it would ensure that such transfers are consistent with Trump administration policies going forward.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May will begin a visit to the US that will include a trip to Philadelphia, where she will meet with Republican members of Congress, as well as to Washington, where she will be Trump’s first official foreign guest.
May will raise with Trump the potential for a bilateral US-UK trade agreement in light of Britain’s exit from the European Union, as well as threats from Russia and the importance of the NATO alliance.Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.
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