President Donald Trump is about to sign executive orders that include a ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of seven predominant Islamic countries, including three from Africa.
The countries to be affected by the ban are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The ban is, however, said to be temporary.
In the buildup to the US presidential election, Trump had, in response to the spate of attacks across the world, vowed, to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the US until he figured out “what the hell was going on.”
Although the comment created uproar, some Republicans and his allies defended the ban, insisting that the measure was about Americans’ “safety” and not about discriminating against religion.
A report by Reuters quoted White House officials to have said that Trump is also expected to target legal immigrants as early as this week, by halting a decades-old programme that grants refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people. The refugee policy under consideration would halt admissions from Syria.
Trump had earlier hinted of his plan to embark on the measures.
“Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!” he wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, a day after the tweet, President Trump issued an executive order for a wall to be built along the southern US border with Mexico.
He also signed an action to strip funds from US cities that are sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.
Mr Trump said in a TV interview that Mexico would “absolutely, 100%” reimburse the US for his wall.
Building a 2,000-mile wall along the Mexican border was one of his key pledges in the election campaign.
“We’ve been talking about this right from the beginning,” he said as he signed the actions during a ceremony at the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.
The executive orders are among several expected on immigration and border security this week.
According to Reuters, the order is expected to ban, for several months, the entry of refugees into the United States — except for religious minorities escaping persecution — until more aggressive vetting is in place.
“With Trump considering measures to tighten border security, he could turn his attention to the refugee issue later this week,” Reuters said in its report.
Stephen Legomsky, who was chief counsel at US Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, said the president had the authority to limit refugee admissions and the issuance of visas to specific countries if the administration determined it was in the public’s interest.
“From a legal standpoint, it would be exactly within his legal rights,” said Legomsky, a professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.
“But from a policy standpoint, it would be a terrible idea because there is such an urgent humanitarian need right now for refugees.”