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The Executive Action Tracker: How Trump’s 13 Latest Moves Will Affect You

by Andre Grant

January 27, 2017

During the presidential campaign, much was made about whether or not to take Donald Trump “literally” (as his critics do) or “seriously” (as his supporters do). Just 96 hours into his presidency, it’s become apparent that we need to do both. From the border wall to his anti-immigration promises, President Donald Trump has come out guns blazing with executive actions being signed with the zeal of his autograph at a Miss Universe Pageant.

But don’t let the furious pace of his pen overwhelm you. Obama enacted 20 executive orders in his first days in office, so the pace here isn’t the important part. The specifics of what his actions are and what they mean is what matters.

Trump is starting where all presidents start: by setting in place his own agenda and minimizing the legacy of his predecessor. He’s doing this through a one-two punch of executive orders and memorandums. The latter was a tactic used by Obama to sometimes make unilateral changes, relegating the legislature to the backseat of his government. While memorandum may sound like a soft-serve, “policy lite” version of executive orders, memorandums can be as powerful, far-reaching, and legally binding, so they will take a court or Congress to reverse, making it a uniquely muscular tool to use in driving policy.

Here are the latest actions he has taken, along with the potential consequences:

Protesters at Standing Rock

1. He’s banned Syrian refugees and visas from 7 Muslim countries:

What it is: President Trump’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, suspension of visas from several Muslim countries, and temporary halting of all refugees is sending shockwaves through the Muslim world. 

What it means: Mr. Trump’s fervent isolationism is set to only fuel antipathy in the very people who’s lives we’ve upended for the last 16 years. 

2. He signed an important memorandum about the Dakota Access Pipeline:

What it is: On Tuesday, President Trump issued a memorandum to advance the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, effectively unraveling months of diligent protests staged by Sioux Reservation Americans. As GOOD reported, The Obama administration had previously blocked pipeline construction as a result of the demonstrations citing environmental concerns. Trump and his administration note the deal will only be made after renegotiations.

But, the memorandum includes specific language that contradicts that claim. It effectively allows the secretary of the Army authority to “instruct” the Army Corps of Engineers and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works to “expedite” the process of building the rest of the pipeline. Since this is a memorandum, this can only be reversed by a Republican Congress or by a lengthy court process. Neither seems likely.

What it means: Despite diligent protest, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the protesters that joined them have lost this battle. This memorandum clears the way for the ease of all laws and regulations that could be blocking the last 10 percent of the pipeline being built. It also prompts the overseer to quickly reconsider the dammed section of the Missouri River that the Army Corps of Engineers decided to block drilling under, which gave the protesters their victory in December of 2016.

3. He penned a second memorandum resurrecting the Keystone XL Pipeline:

What it is: This memorandum resurrects the Keystone XL pipeline project. It invites TransCanada to resubmit their application for the development of the pipeline. It tells the Secretary of the Army to lead the Army Corps of Engineers in using Nationwide Permit 12—a blanket permit that allows the ACE to treat a pipeline has half-mile projects instead of, say, a 2,000-mile single project. Since it considers the pipeline a half mile at a time, it doesn’t take into account environmental dangers that a longer pipeline has to deal with. It also waves red tape that has the potential to halt building on vulnerable federal lands.

What it means: Should TransCanada choose to—and they will—the Keystone Pipeline is making a comeback. Not only does this memorandum remove most of the obstacles of the first go-around, but it expedites the process by using federal loophole Nationwide Permit 12. It seems all the hubbub about the ruination of the Canadian wilderness and the usage of tar sands—a particularly dirty fossil fuel—have been shuttled here in favor of economic interests.

San Diego Border Wall

4. He told federal agencies to “construct a physical wall” between the United States and Mexico:

What it is: President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday, ordering a “wall” built along the Mexican border. The project is a serious expansion of the George H.W. Bush era’s The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which beefed up fencing, patrols, security cameras and more along the southern border of the United States. He wants a survey of the southern border done six months from now, and the order allocates budget resources for building and for future maintenance. He recently announced plans for a 20 percent import tax on Mexico to cover the multibillion project.

What it means: In 180 days—and after review of the comprehensive study ordered by President Trump—the United States will be expanding its current fencing and building. He has also said Mexico will pay for it, though the Mexican president denies that claim. The wall is a symbol of racism and xenophobia to many Mexicans. It’s also a symbol economic growth for the United States. Nearly 3 million migrant workers leave their homes each year to travel to the United States for work on farms. Of those, 52 out of 100 are undocumented.

5. But he’s also enacted a hiring freeze:

What it is: A memorandum ordering a halt on hiring any and all government personnel. The freeze is in place until the director of the Department of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) can “recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition,” which sounds about as awful as winter in Detroit.

What it means: "By imposing a 90-day freeze on federal employment, along with his plan to hold off on spending large amounts of taxpayer money for 180 days, President Trump will most likely be looking to find the budget to build his brand new wall.

6. He’s launched a sweeping indictment of undocumented Latino immigrants:

What it is: Trump’s two executive orders on Wednesday will vastly change the immigration protocol of the United States. It orders the creation of detention centers for people caught crossing illegally, then advocates for near immediate deportation. It beefs up border agents hired to patrol the border, as well, allocating resources for hiring 5,000 more agents. It also ends the U.S. policy of “catch and release” for certain immigration offenses, which is an almost guaranteed way to break up families. But the kicker is his language about the people he’d like to see removed. It includes anyone who has “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”

What it means: This is a broad, sweeping, zero-tolerance policy on undocumented immigration that affects every undocumented person in the United States, if the government is looking for you, that is. The language is so focused on our southern neighbors that it is basically a warning to Mexico and Mexicans. Nearly 11.7 million undocumented immigrants are in the United States. Nearly half are Mexican-born. This is a “watch your back” proclamation if there ever was one.

7. He’s destabilized the Affordable Care Act:

What it is: The ACA is a complex equation. It requires the involvement of states, insurers, the insured, and government agencies to do the things it says it will do. It’s not always comfortable, though. And this executive order is Donald Trump easing the burden of that discomfort from the states, while simultaneously forcing Republicans to come up with a suitable replacement.

What it means: This short order means states no longer need to play nice with the ACA. If the law requires states to use monies to appease other parties in the ACA, they no longer need to do so. For example, the Obama administration was very liberal in its use of justifications for waivers and ACA provisions. The states no longer need to abide. Though, it would behoove them to do so.   

Rahm Emanuel and Mr. Obama

8. He’s ordered an end to sanctuary cities:

What is it: This executive order seeks to rein in “sanctuary jurisdictions,” where he’s threatened to pull federal funding for these citadels “willfully” violating federal law. These cities are some of the largest in the United States., including New York, Los Angeles, and Austin. They are also largely Democratic, with LA and San Francisco, especially, showing their disdain for Trump by overwhelmingly voting for Hillary Clinton, which we know he has a problem with. Eighteen of these cities have flat-out denied they’d work with Trump on his immigration agenda, making these mayors veritable heroes in their towns. GOOD had noted that LA’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, would be important in the resistance against Trump, making him one of the Democrats to watch over the next few years. New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio has also come out in support of immigrants, claiming he won’t just up and sacrifice “half-a-million people.” Good for him. Ironically, Washington, D.C., is also a sanctuary city, despite Mr. Trump’s recent ascent in the nation’s capital.

What it means: President Trump will try to force cities to cooperate by withholding federal funds except for use by law enforcement. These vital cities could be catastrophically affected by the loss of monies for infrastructure, social services, and government programs.

9. He’s threatened to “help” the city of Chicago from “carnage:”

What it is: Using his truly “official” way of pushing his agenda, Trump came for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel with a vigorous tweet offering to “help” Chicago by way of sending in federal troops to deal with the imaginary nightmare that is Chi-Town. The tweet was prompted by Emanuel’s refusal to butter up to the new president when he stated: “You didn’t get elected to debate the crowd size at your inaugural.”

What it means: That tweet came in response to this Chicago Tribune piece about homicides being up since last year, as well as reports of Chicago’s gun violence, which has prompted across-the-board outrage in recent years. The truth is that guns have been flowing into Chicago from neighboring states with lax gun laws like Indiana’s. On this point, Chicago has been asking for federal help for years in the form of a sane gun control policy. If Trump is really serious, he could push past Chicago’s legacy as America’s most segregated city by implementing bussing to segregated school districts and implementing federal programs to combat poverty.

Badands National Park

10. He forced government agencies to go dark on social media:

What it is: He directed employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human Services to shut up about relevant pieces of information involving our nation’s parks and the environment. He has also halted scientists from discussing their research.

What it means: Trump wants no dissent at all. He’s establishing the notion that his White House will not be a place for discussion. His White House will be a place to toe the party line. He’s stoking fears that he’ll seek to silence individuals from these agencies by limiting how they can speak on the-hot button issues that got him elected. This caused the appropriately named Badlands National Park to send out a juicy, rebellious tweet on climate change that drew the ire of their newly minted leader.

11. He’s pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

What it is: The TPP has been a hotly debated, 12-country trade deal that became unpopular in political circles as words like “globalism” and “free trade” also came under attack. But, as Mireya Solis of the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies told The New Yorker, “I don’t know how we got to the point that TPP became a pariah; it is the most far-reaching, progressive, important, and advantageous trade pact in two decades.” Trump’s backing out is both a shot at Obama and the setting of his agenda, a warning that his administration will only be participating in bilateral trade talks with individual nations from now on.

What it means: President Trump has scuttled the most comprehensive and progressive trade deal in recent memory by focusing on the idea that American’s are giving away wealth to China and others. He publicly postulated that the Obama administration, which supported the TPP, was unconcerned about the common American worker, sacrificing decent jobs and wages in deals that only benefit the 1 percent. That isn’t accurate, but the gambit worked, though it’s unclear what effect not being part of the TPP will have in the long run.

Avocados could become scarce

12. He’s proposed a plan to add a 20 percent import tax to Mexican goods:

What it is: President Trump has repeatedly said that the Mexican government will pay for the wall he plans to erect along the southern border of the United States. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has repeatedly pushed back. 

What it means: Tensions are high between Mexico and the Trump administration. After threatening our southern neighbor with a renegotiation of NAFTA, condemning its citizens, and proposing to build a wall on their dime, Nieto has continued to flatly refuse to pay for anything. President Trump’s floating the idea of a tax is a tacit acknowledgment that the American people will end up paying for the wall. A tax would greatly increase prices to American retailers of Mexican goods, and those retailers would likely pass the cost on to consumers.

13. He’s banned foreign aid to organizations that give abortion counseling:

What it is: The so-called “Mexico City policy” from the Reagan era denies organizations aid to give abortion counseling around the world. It’s ritually enacted by every Republican president since Reagan and reversed by democratic ones. 

What it means: There’s palpable evidence to suggest that this will result in more deaths from abortions around the world.

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The Executive Action Tracker: How Trump’s 13 Latest Moves Will Affect You