President Donald J. Trump began his term with a blitz of executive orders, including beginning the promised wall, a ban on travel to and from certain Muslim nations, and reinstatement of abortion gag rules.
On the campaign trail, President Trump often criticized former President Barack Obama for his use of executive orders with the aim of getting things done despite a constantly gridlocked congress. With just a week in the White House, Trump has signed a number of executive orders that not only chip away at Obama’s legacy, but also reinstate a number of controversial policies.
As is typical with President Trump, the executive orders have riled up a considerable amount of anger, disbelief, and – for many of his supporters – confusion at the stark contrast between campaign rhetoric and actions as president.
The first of President Trump’s executive orders was rendering ineffective, or essentially killing the Affordable Care Act, a hallmark of Mr. Barack Obama’s presidency. The act gives federal agencies broad leeway to chip away at the measures of the Affordable Care Act, such as the conditions of waivers, exemptions, and delays.
This executive order was signed on Inauguration Day, and involved the “minimizing the economic burden”, according to prominent Trump advisor and alternative facts supporter Kellyanne Conway. This order allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and any heads of other departments and agencies, to waive the implementation of any Affordable Care Act provisions that would impose a financial or regulatory burden on any individuals.
The reactions to this executive order have been unsurprisingly heated. One Trump supporter, Debbie Mills, a store owner whose husband awaits a life saving liver transplant, received insurance from the Affordable Care Act, and was shocked when she heard of the executive order chipping away at the Act.
“I don’t know what we’ll do if it does go away. I guess I thought that, you know, [Trump] would not do this,” Debbie Mills said to The Washington Post. “That they would not do this, would not take the insurance away. Knowing that it’s affecting so many people’s lives. I mean, what are you to do then if you cannot…purchase, cannot pay for the insurance?”
Mills, who supported Trump for issues other than his talk of getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, figured the repeal-and-replace talk was just that: talk.
“I guess we really didn’t think about that, that he was going to cancel that or change that or take it away,” Mills said. “I guess I always just thought that it would be there. I was thinking that once it was made into a law that it could not be changed.”
Debbie Mills is one of many Trump supporters who will soon find themselves in a very tight spot if Trump’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is successful.
“The people hit the hardest are a lot of the demographics that went heavily for Trump,” Center for Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein said to The New York Times.
The second of Trump’s numerous executive orders is freezing all pending regulations until they are approved directly by his administration, or an agency led by Trump appointees.
The action, given in a memorandum from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, delays all regulations with the exception of health, safety, financial, or national security matters allowed by the Office of Management and Budget director.
Trump’s third executive order, and arguably one of his most controversial, is reinstating the Mexico City policy, or what many on social media have started calling the “Global Gag Rule”.
Framed as a policy which blocks the use of United States taxpayer dollars to fund foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions, the Mexico City policy will detrimentally affects poor women in developing countries, as organizations that perform and promote abortions most often also provide healthcare integral for women and children.
This order blocks funding to organizations that perform or promote abortions- and promoting abortions can be anything from providing advice and information about the benefits and availability of abortion for family planning (even if abortion is legal in the country), lobbying a foreign government about abortion as a method of family planning, to conducting a public information campaign about abortion as a method of family planning.
Under this policy, any foreign non-governmental organizations that receive family planning assistance from the United States cannot “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” even with money that does not come from the United States. As discovered by the Washington Post, the use of American aid to pay for abortions overseas has already been and remains prohibited under several laws that were in place a long time before the Mexico City policy.
Those who oppose abortion rights often characterize this policy as a protection against taxpayer funds being used to pay for or promote abortion overseas. In reality, this policy will most detrimentally affect poor women in Africa, since Africa is home to two thirds of the United States Agency for International Development’s family planning priority countries.
Trump’s fourth executive order is the scrapping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with withdraws the United states from a trade deal former President Barack Obama negotiated with eleven other pacific nations.
Trump’s fifth executive order is the freezing of the federal workforce, which essentially prohibits government agencies from hiring any new employees, effective as of noon on January 22. The order does not apply to military personnel.
Trump’s sixth executive order advances the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, two controversial pipelines which Native Americans and people around the country spent almost a year protesting due to the fact that the pipes could imperil their water supplies and disturb sacred burial and archaeological sites.
This executive order is another step in his effort to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Obama said the project would contribute to climate change because it would carry tar sands crude oil, which is especially greenhouse gas intensive due to the energy it takes to extract the thick crude.
Along with this executive order, Trump also signed an executive order to expedite environmental reviews of other infrastructure projects, lamenting the existing “incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process.”
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is expected to return to court in a bid to block the project.
Trump’s seventh executive order is promoting “Made-in-the-U.S.A.” pipelines. This memorandum instructs the Secretary of Commerce to create a plan for pipelines created, repaired, or expanded in the United states to use materials and equipment produced in the country. This specific requirement is never noted in Trump’s executive order to advance the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines.
Trump’s eighth executive order instructs the Secretary of Commerce to contact stakeholders in order to review the impact of Federal regulations on domestic manufacturing. After such a review, the Secretary of Commerce is instructed to create a streamlined, essentially abridged, federal permitting process for domestic manufacturers.
Trump’s ninth and arguably most controversial executive order is essentially what many on social media have taken to calling “The Purge”.
It is an order which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize certain undocumented immigrants for removal- including those who have been convicted of a crime, and even those only charged with a crime, hire 10,000 additional immigration officers at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the expense of taxpayers, create a list, updated weekly, of crimes committed only by undocumented immigrants in sanctuary jurisdictions, and to create an “Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens”.
This order also limits the already small number of legal immigrants fleeing persecution and violence from seven majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. The reactions to this executive order have been explosive, the results chaotic. Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian filmmaker who was nominated by the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, was not let into the United States as a result of the ban.
“To us, this is really criminalizing people based on faith, nation of origin, or the color of their skin,” National Network for Arab American Communities Director Nadia El-Zein Tonova stated. “This is a direct threat to the American values we all hold so dearly…This is a country that values religious freedom and diversity. We want to make sure that those values are upheld.”
Top standing Republicans have sharply criticized President Trump’s decision to essentially bar Muslims from entering the United States- even green card and visa holders. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement on Saturday, expressing their disapproval of the executive order, “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help [ISIL’s] terrorist recruitment than improve our security. Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”
Lastly, and perhaps most controversial of all, is Trump’s executive order increasing border security measures. Namely, the wall that President Trump continuously – and thus far erroneously – claimed that Mexico would pay for.
The order directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to begin planning, designing, and constructing a wall along the United States-Mexico border. This includes identifying available federal funds and working with Congress for additional funding.
In the order are also instructions to quantify and identify “all sources of direct and indirect Federal aid or assistance to the government of Mexico on an annual basis over the past years” – essentially a play at trying to make Mexico pay for the border wall – and to take action to empower state and local law enforcement to act as immigration officers. Although Trump has been adamant in his belief that Mexico will pay for the expensive border wall, the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, has been very clear in his refusal to pay for such a wall, and subsequently cancelling his scheduled meeting with President Trump. As a result, the White House has announced that they will pose a whopping 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to fund the wall- an amount that will become a burden to American consumers and businesses.
Many critics of the order have been quick to point out the ongoing lack of safe drinking water in Flint, Michigan, amongst a slew of other issues, that such funding could be going to instead of a wall that could potentially cost billions of taxpayer dollars.
Kalila Harris, a teacher from Buffalo, New York, is outraged by this executive order.
“It’s clear that he [Trump] doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing,” Harris said. “We have children, families in Flint, Michigan, who still don’t have access to clean drinking water, something that should be guaranteed to every human being- but apparently we have the funds to pay for a wall instead of taking care of our kids. That says a lot. It says a lot.”