A running list of what the Republican-dominated federal government is up to.
This post will be continuously updated throughout 2017 as President Donald Trump signs executive orders and makes bills into laws. Read more about this project here.
Executive Order 7: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements (Including Advancing The Construction of A Large Physical Barrier on the Southern Border)
What It Will Do: Yes, this is the famous wall. As some have speculated for a while, the Trump administration is saying the 2006 Secure Fence Act (and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act) gives the Department of Homeland Security to build whatever infrastructure it deems necessarily to control the borders. Although Trump will need Congressional approval to fully fund the project, which will cost between $8 and $25 billion (the order calls for the creation and proposal of a firm budget), the order instructs the relevant authorities to assess what existing appropriations can be diverted to the project ASAP. It also calls for planning, designing, and building the wall to begin "immediately," and authorizes border control forces to enter federal lands—which may help them to circumvent some environmental concerns around the wall. In a kicker, Trump also instructs relevant agencies to report to him within 60 days with a breakdown of all federal aid money or assistance the government of Mexico has received from the US each year for the past five years. That could be the beginning of an attempt to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as Trump promised. More broadly, it directs relevant agencies to "deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation's southern border, to prevent illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely." That means 5,000 border patrol agents will be added, state and local law enforcement officers will be authorized to act as immigration officers, and new detention centers we be opened. It also discards the Bush and Obama era "catch-and-release" policy in favor of aggressive, pervasive, and expedited prosecution and removal. Trump promised more draconian policies on undocumented immigration; here they are.
Who It Will Affect: When construction starts on the wall,a few construction jobs could result. But the effects it will have on border communities will be far longer-lasting than that—landowners could have their property seized through eminent domain, the habitats of wildlife would be destroyed, and, of course, ladder sales will likely spike. More border officers (and deputized law enforcement officers) will likely mean more deportations of undocumented immigrants; how America's overburdened and underfunded immigration courts will hold up remains to be seen.
For More: Watch the VICE News report on how ineffective the existing border wall is.
Executive Order 8: Enabling Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
What It Will Do: This instructs relevant authorities to review the streams of federal money moving toward "sanctuary cities"—municipalities that, to varying degrees, don't cooperate with immigration officials in their deportation efforts—and how those funds can be severed in a bid to force compliance with federal immigration policies. (The Secretary of Homeland Security is empowered to define sanctuary cities as he sees fit.) Weekly reports will be issued to the public listing criminal acts committed by aliens and detailing jurisdictions that ignored or "failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens." It also empowers agencies to act with as much legal force as possible to penalize and remove aliens, and eliminates the Priority Enforcement program in favor of restoring the old Secure Communities program. Relevant authorities are told to prioritize deportation of, in this order: criminal offenders, those charged with criminal offenses, those that could be charged, those who have misrepresented themselves, those who have abused public benefits programs, those who have not complied with orders for removal, or anyone else deemed a threat. That's a lot of potential deportees. The Department of Justice is instructed to provide resources for their prosecution. There's even more: It establishes an office for advocacy for the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, which will issue quarterly reports. It also calls for the collection of the immigration status of all incarcerated individuals, and indicates that the government will penalize any foreign nations if they refuse to take back citizens deported from America.
Who It Will Affect: As "sanctuary city" is an imprecise and partially informal term, it is not clear what criteria the Trump administration will use or whether any streams of federal funding will be off limits for cuts. However, at least 165 jurisdictions are likely in the defunding crosshairs; one report figured that Denver alone could stand to lose up to $175 million in federal funds if it does not comply. Individual jurisdictions will have to decide whether to give up federal money or let the feds deport undocumented immigrants, potentially breaking up families and disrupting communities. Some mayors in liberal cities have vowed their towns will remain sanctuaries and have promised to help undocumented immigrants. Beefing up internal immigration enforcement more broadly will also likely lead to a spike in deportations. This will flavor a number of impending negotiations with other nations as well—especially those soon to come with Mexico.
For More: Read about how one small town in Iowa is helping undocumented immigrants.
Executive Order 2: To Advance the Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline
What It Will Do: First proposed in 2008, the Keystone XL pipeline was supposed to more efficiently transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of Canadian oil into the United States. In November 2015, John Kerry's State Department killed the project —which had by then become a major target of protests from climate activists—deciding that it would not lead to a meaningful increase in jobs or a decrease in gas costs. But as many suspected, Trump wants to bring Keystone back. This order invites the company behind the pipeline, TransCanada Corporation, to resubmit the project application for review and instructs the State Department to rapidly review it—reportedly within the space of 60 days, to the extent that is possible.
Who It Will Affect: Assuming the intention is to approve Keystone, the order is a boon to TransCanada—which has seen a stock-price boost already. Environmentalists will likely organize to block the pipeline, as will many landowners in Nebraska who don't like the idea of the pipeline invading their backyards. The project, if it gets built, may give a few thousand people short-term construction jobs, but it might negatively impact climate change.
For More: Read About a Recent Leak in an Existing TransCanada Pipeline.
Executive Order 3: To Advance the Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline
What It Will Do: The Dakota Access pipeline is the one that was supposed to cut across the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and was met by massive resistance. Eventually, the Army Corps of Engineers decided not to grant an easement to the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, blocking the pipeline. The corps then launched an environmental review, leading to the consideration of alternate routes. Trump's new order instructs the corps to complete its review and approve a route for the pipeline as quickly as the law permits. In other words, the fight is back on.
Who It Will Affect: The corps will have to decide how to follow these instructions, but the Standing Rock Sioux were already gearing up to block the pipeline again. Lawsuits, protests, and confrontations are likely to result. (Even if the pipeline gets built, it likely will have a negligible impact on job creation, energy security, and gas costs. Standing Rock residents are concerned that it will pollute the water they rely on.)
For More: Read about the veterans who came to Standing Rock.
Executive Order 4: To Promote the Use of Domestic Materials in the Upgrade or Construction of Domestic Pipelines
What It Will Do: This just tells the secretary of commerce to, within 180 days, develop a plan to make sure that domestic materials are, as often as possible, used—well it's all in the title. In the short term, it's a symbolic show of support for US manufacturing from the Trump administration.
Who It Will Affect: If Commerce can come up with an enforceable and practical plan, then this is likely good news for steel and other US manufacturers. Even then, the effect on America's waning steel industry is contingent on the materialization of pipeline projects.
For More: Read about the Standing Rock water protectors.
Executive Order 5: Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects
What It Will Do: Basically, Trump's just telling the individuals in charge of reviewing the environmental impact of infrastructure projects to speed up as much as they can on projects deemed especially important. Given how much of the current process is enshrined in law, it's not clear how the bodies involved can speed things up. It is a signal of the Trump administration's commitment to lessening what it sees as unnecessary, burdensome regulations.
Who It Will Affect: For now, the order will send some bureaucrats scurrying about. Until they decide what's in their power to do, though, there will be no wider impact.
Executive Order 6: To Expedite the Permit and Review Process for Domestic Manufacturing Projects
What It Will Do: Similar to the last order, Trump here just tells the folks reviewing wider projects to hustle, to the extent that the law permits, when it comes to giving people an answer on whether they can break ground. It's largely of a piece with the above order and has many of the same effects.
Who It Will Affect: See above.
Update: The following items were initially reported by some outlets to be executive orders, but are listed as memoranda on the White House website. This post has been edited to reflect that.
Presidential Memorandum 4: Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement
What It Will Do: Since TTP wasn't yet in effect and was unlikely to be ratified by Congress, in practical terms, this did very little. Still, this officially kills a free trade deal that's been in the works for the better part of a decade between the US and 11 other major economies along the Pacific Rim. (Given widespread opposition to the deal, and Hillary Clinton's campaign-season flip-flop against it, even if Trump weren't in office, the TPP would likely have died.)
Who It Will Affect: In the short-term, since the TPP was not in force, this affects no one. TPP opponents argued that killing the deal will help keep jobs in America in the long-term by maintaining standing international economic barriers to offshoring, while proponents said lost jobs could have been offset by new jobs brought to America by the deal, and that missing out on new export markets, cheaper imports, and better security for American intellectual property will leave us on the whole poorer as a nation than we could have been. There's also the argument that ending TPP will give China, which was conspicuously boxed out of the deal, a freer hand to dominate and write the rules for the future of regional trade. Since trade deals are impossibly complex—this one involved thousands of provisions—and usually don't reveal their full effects until years after their enactment (and even then they're opaque), the domestic effect of striking down the deal will remain unclear.
For More: Read the perspective of one internet freedom activist on why TPP's death was a good thing.
Presidential Memorandum 3: Regarding the [Federal] Hiring Freeze
What It Will Do: This executive action imposes an indefinite moratorium on hiring new staffers at federal agencies, except those involved in national security functions. During the campaign, Trump promised to do this as a means of reducing corruption by shrinking the federal government by attrition. (Supposedly that would make corruption harder to hide.) Past hiring freezes have been proposed or enacted to cut down on state spending. However, a Government Accountability Office analysis of freezes under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan found that freezes tended to increase federal costs by disrupting agency agendas, leading to reliance on more expensive contract or part-time labor.
Update: The Office of Management and Budget has clarified that anyone hired on or before 22 January and with at least a 22 February start date will still be brought on. For other recent hires, it leaves some leeway to agencies to make the decision on whether to still bring them on. It also stressed that there will be exceptions to the hiring freeze for national and public security.
Who It Will Affect: If you had your heart set on a job with the federal government or were in the process of being hired for a position, this is pretty painful for you. If you're a current or potential government contractor or temp, this could mean more lucrative gigs for you as the state scrambling to fulfill its responsibilities down the line—unless Trump and the Republicans scale the functions of government back, another campaign promise he made. If you're an average citizen, this probably has no immediate effect on your life.
For More: Read some of the promises Trump made during the campaign.
Presidential Memorandum 2: Regarding the [Reinstitution of the] "Mexico City" Policy
What It Will Do: The Mexico City Policy, known among some pro-choice communities as the Global Gag Rule, prohibits nongovernmental organizations outside of America that receive US federal funding through aid programs from offering abortions or even talking to women or policymakers about abortions. This strict ban applies even to organizations that do not use the US funding they receive to pursue abortion-related activities. First enacted by Reagan in 1984 at a conference in Mexico City (hence the name), it's been axed by every Democrat and restored by every Republican after the White House changes hands.
Who It Will Affect: This doesn't apply to organizations inside American borders, but it forces some groups to either change the way they operate overseas or else just refuse funding from the US. Past studies of the MCP/GGR have indicated that the rule often results in overall decreased access to women's healthcare in nations receiving US aid. It has also historically increased numbers of increasingly unsafe abortions in sub-Saharan Africa, and it can have a chilling effect on public discourse on abortion in other nations as well.
For More: Read about how some women are preparing to fight Trump's anti-abortion agenda.
Executive Order 1: Minimizing the economic burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act pending repeal
What It Will Do: Trump's first executive order was a bold move to gut Obamacare in broad yet vague ways. The brief order empowers all relevant federal agencies to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay" the enforcement of key rules under their jurisdiction relating to the Affordable Care Act that those agencies believe impose financial or regulatory burdens on them or individuals. It also directs agencies to encourage a "free and open market in interstate commerce" when it comes to insurance and care, and provide as much flexibility to individual states as possible.
Who It Will Affect: The order is vaguely worded, and a lot of Obamacare's requirements are written into law, which a president can't simply change at will. But some observers speculated that it could lead to less enforcement of the mandate for everyone to buy insurance—if fewer healthy people buy insurance, the markets for insurance could become less stable.
For More: Read about what the end of Obamacare could mean for you.
Senate Bill 81: A bill to provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces
What It Will Do: The first law Trump signed as president just does what it says on the tin. Trump had nominated retired General James "Mad Dog" Mattis as his secretary of defense, but Mattis had he only left the Marine Corps in 2013—by law, members of the military have to be seven years removed from service before they can become secretary of defense. So Congress waived the requirement, just this once, and voila.
Who It Will Affect: This means Mattis will join Trump's cabinet—he was confirmed, nearly unanimously, by the Senate the same day the president signed this bill. Mattis disagrees with Trump on a lot of issues, and some are hoping he'll be a check on Trump's impulses.
For More: Watch the VICE News Tonight video about Mattis's nomination.
Proclamation 1: Declaring a National Day of Patriotism
What It Will Do: Although Congress has to pass a bill to create a new federal holiday, the president can unilaterally proclaim a day to be special for whatever reason—last year, Barack Obama declared several days of prayer and remembrance in honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
Update: It wasn't clear when this day would when Trump made this proclamation, but it turns out that it was January 20, so you already missed it.
Who It Will Affect: You won't get the day off of work, but you can be patriotic on this day if you like.
For More: Read about Trump's first few hours of document signing.
Presidential Memorandum 1: [ Regarding Regulatory Processes] for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
What It Will Do: This vaguely titled action, communicated in a memo from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, requires all new agency rules and regulations to be submitted to the Trump appointee now heading up the agency or department they pertain to for review. Previously submitted regulations not yet incorporated into the Federal Register—the repository of these rules—have to be withdrawn for review. And those incorporated but not yet enacted need to be suspended for 60 days for review. In short, every late Obama-era regulation needs to be frozen and pulled for review by a Trump appointee who will either axe or keep it.
Who Will It Affect: This is a fairly routine bit of business—the Obama administration did something similar in 2009. Update: Initial reports indicate that federal agencies have responded to this order in a broad and cautious manner, perhaps pulling or freezing more regulations than they need to.