Trump signs executive orders on border wall, US 'sanctuary cities'

President Donald Trump signed directives on Wednesday to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and strip funding from cities that shield illegal immigrants as he charged ahead with sweeping and divisive plans to transform how the United States deals with immigration and national security.

The Republican president is expected to take additional steps in the coming days to limit legal immigration, including executive orders restricting refugees and blocking the issuing of visas to people from several Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen.

The intent of those proposals is to head off Islamist violence in the United States, although critics have said it soils America's reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants of all stripes.

Trump signed two executive orders, directing the construction of a wall along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border, moving to peel away federal grant money from "sanctuary" states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants and beefing up the force of immigration agents.

RELATED: Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border

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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
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Where the wall already exists along the US-Mexico border
A gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence is seen outside Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
U.S. customs and border patrol officers inspect a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Men talk on a street in the town of Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol officer stands at a border crossing in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Recent arrivals from Mexico wait to board a greyhound bus in San Ysidro, California, United States, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Highway 82 towards Douglas, Arizona is seen near Sonoita, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Clouds float above the border towns of Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A sign warning drivers that firearms and ammunition are prohibited in Mexico is seen at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Buildings in Nogales, Mexico (R) are separated by a border fence from Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A worker makes his way through the water after setting up an irrigation system on an agricultural field, near Calexico, California, U.S. October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An abandoned car sits off the side of a road near Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A church at the Museum of History in Granite is seen in Felicity, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A man drives a tractor plowing a field at sunrise near Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
Residential homes are seen next to the fence that borders Mexico, in Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians wait to cross the street in Calexico, California, Unites States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The town of Bisbee is seen in Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Pedestrians make their way into the the United States from Mexico at the pedestrian border in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A roadside collection of alien dolls and toy UFO saucers is seen next to a roadside residence neat Jacumba, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A road abruptly ends next to a sign for a cattle ranch near Douglas, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A boy rides an all-terrain vehicle next Mexican border along the Buttercup San Dunes in California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An old refurbished gas station is seen in Lowell, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A man rides a tricycle past a grocery store in a town that borders Mexico, in San Luis Butter, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A U.S. customs and border patrol truck drives past the fence that marks the border between U.S. and Mexico, in Calexico, California, United States, October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A truck drives west towards California along highway 8 near Gila Bend, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Electronic items are displayed in a shop window in Calexico, California, United States, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A residential home is seen in Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake 
A fence separates the border towns of Nogales, Mexico (R) and Nogales, Arizona, United Sates, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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"We are in the middle of a crisis on our southern border: The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central American is harming both Mexico and the United States," Trump said in remarks at the Department of Homeland of Security after signing the directives.

"And I believe the steps we will take starting right now will improve the safety in both of our countries," Trump said, adding: "A nation without borders is not a nation."

His plans prompted an immediate outcry from immigrant advocates and others who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an enemy, not an ally.

Local officials in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants. Billions of dollars in federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could be at risk.

"The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said construction on the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately, and that Mexico would pay back to the United States "100 percent" of the costs. Mexican officials have said they will not pay for the wall.

During a White House briefing, Spicer referred to the wall as "a large physical barrier on the southern border."

SEE ALSO: Trump expected to order temporary ban on refugees

"Building this barrier is more than just a campaign promise, it's a common-sense first step to really securing our porous border," Spicer added. "This will stem the flow of drugs, crime, illegal immigration into the United States."

Trump's actions could fundamentally change the American stance on immigration, as well as further testing relations with Mexico.

Spicer said Trump's goal was to get the wall project started as quickly as possible using existing government funds and then work with the Republican-led Congress on further appropriations.

"We'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico," Trump told ABC on Wednesday. "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."

'POLITICAL THEATER'

Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a key element of his presidential campaign, with supporters at his rallies often chanting: "Build the wall."

RELATED: Donald Trump's first 100 days in office

101 PHOTOS
Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, a photo for each day
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Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, a photo for each day
US President Donald Trump takes the oath of office with his wife Melania and son Barron at his side, during his inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he leaves the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters after delivering remarks during a visit in Langley, Virginia U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump shows a letter from former President Barack Obama at a swearing-in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, DC January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the executive order on withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership after signing it in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while signing an executive order to advance construction of the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House in Washington January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks as U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, center, and John Kelly, secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, stand during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, D.C. U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. Trump acted on two of the most fundamental -- and controversial -- elements of his presidential campaign, building a wall on the border with Mexico and greatly tightening restrictions on who can enter the U.S. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks briefly to reporters as he arrives aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: British Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump in The Oval Office at The White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to the United States and will be the first world leader to meet with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R), speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Activists march to the US Capitol to protest President Donald Trump's executive actions on immigration in Washington January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order while surrounded by small business leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. Trump said he will dramatically reduce regulations overall with this executive action as it requires that for every new federal regulation implemented, two must be rescinded. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Robert J. Hugin, Executive Chairman, Celgene Corporation, as he meets with representatives from PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. According to its website, PhRMA 'represents the country's leading biopharmaceutical researchers and biotechnology companies.' Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. looks on from left. (Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images)
Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State for President Donald Trump, left, speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump listen after the swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Tillerson won Senate confirmation as secretary of state after lawmakers split mostly along party lines on President Trump's choice of an oilman with no government experience but a career negotiating billions of dollars of energy deals worldwide. Photographer: Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with Harley Davidson executives and Union Representatives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, Feb. 02, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at West Palm Beach International airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend the 60th Annual Red Cross Gala at Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump watches the Super Bowl with First Lady Melania Trump (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (L) at Trump International Golf Club Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, Florida on February 5, 2017. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump salutes as he arrives at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump receives a figurine of a sheriff during a meeting with county sheriffs at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while Brian Krzanich, chief executive officer of Intel Corp., left, listens during a meeting at The White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. Trump defended his power to put limits on who can enter the U.S., saying it shouldn't be challenged in the courts even as a three-judge panel weighs whether to reinstate restrictions on refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump watches as Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Jeff Sessions (L) as U.S. Attorney General while his wife Mary Sessions holds the Bible in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is greeted by U.S. President Donald Trump (L) ahead of their joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pose for photos with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akke Abe at Trump's Mar-a-Lagoresort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 11, 2017 prior to dinner. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives on Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speak at meeting with teachers and parents at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump (2ndR) and first lady Melania Trump greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara (L) as they arrive at the South Portico of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump announces Alexander Acosta as his new nominee to lead the Department of Labor during a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with his grandchildren Arabella and Joseph to Marine One upon his departure from the White House in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump acknowledge supporters during a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump turns into Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (L) and that acting adviser Keith Kellogg (R) will become the chief of staff of the National Security Council at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 21: (AFP OUT) President Donald Trump tours the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture on February 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images)
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a "strategic initiatives" lunch at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a meeting with experts on addressing human trafficking at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S. February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after a dinner at Trump International Hotel in Washington, U.S., February 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 26: AFP OUT President Donald Trump delivers brief remarks before a toast during the annual Governors' Dinner in the East Room of the White House February 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. Part of the National Governors Association� annual meeting in the nation's capital, the black tie dinner and ball is the first formal event the Trumps will host at the White House since moving in last month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: U.S. President Donald Trump poses with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Oval Office of the White House, on February 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) applaud as US President Donald J. Trump (C) arrives to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. REUTERS/Jim Lo Scalzo
U.S. President Donald Trump looks up while hosting a House and Senate leadership lunch at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump tours the pre-commissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding facilities in Newport News, Virginia, U.S. March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 
U.S. President Donald Trump, joined by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (from L), U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and White House advisor Jared Kushner, thanks fourth-grade students for the "Happy Birthday Florida" card they gave him as he visits their classroom at Saint Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, U.S. March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 04: US President Donald Trump waves from his vehicle as he stops while being driven past supporters near his Mar-a-Lago resort home on March 4, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. President Trump spent part of the weekend at the house. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: President Donald J. Trump walks across the South Lawn towards the White House on March 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is returning from a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. Florida. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stand together after speaking on issues related to visas and travel after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new travel ban order in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Beside a painting of Hillary Clinton, U.S. President Donald Trump makes a surprise appearance in front of a tour group at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 8: First Lady Melania Trump arrives at a luncheon she was hosting to mark International Women's Day in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March. 08, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: US President Donald Trump greets Dorothy Savarese, CEO of Cape Cod Five Mutual Company, during a National Economic Council listening session with the CEOs of small and community banks, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 9, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) during a healthcare meeting with key House Committee Chairmen at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
POTOMAC FALLS, VA - MARCH 11: President Donald Trump has a working lunch with staff and cabinet members and significant others at his golf course, Trump National on March 11, 2017 in Potomac Falls, Virginia. (Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)
A boy looks at a man dressed in the likeness of U.S. President Donald Trump as ultra Orthodox Jewish men dressed in Purim costumes take part in the reading from the Book of Esther ceremony performed on the Jewish holiday of Purim, a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther, in Jerusalem March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
U.S. President Donald Trump is applauded by his cabinet as he signs an executive order entitled "Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch" in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman enter the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage for a rally at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny (R) presents a traditional gift of a bowl of shamrocks to U.S. President Donald Trump during a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump walk to a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump makes its way to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at his side aboard Air Force One as he departs West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., to return to Washington March 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House to board Marine One before departing to Louisville, Kentucky, in Washington U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump receives a NASA jacket during a signing ceremony for S442, the NASA transition authorization act, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus Executive Committee at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he sits on a truck while he welcomes truckers and CEOs to attend a meeting regarding healthcare at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Medal of Honor recipients in the Oval Office of the White House on March 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. The meeting with decorated war heroes took place on Medal of Honor Day (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after a dinner at Trump International Hotel in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Security personnel stand watch as U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia, U.S., March 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (C) receives a pen after U.S. President Donald Trump signed H.J. Res. 57, in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up an executive order on "energy independence," eliminating Obama-era climate change regulations, during a signing ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, U.S., March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump jokes with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during a meeting about opioid and drug abuse in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen at the White House in Washington, DC, March 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at a schedule signing ceremony of executive orders on trade as Vice President Mike Pence (C) reacts at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
TOPSHOT - People wearing masks of US President Donald Trump take part in the 32nd Annual April Fools Day Parade in New York on April 1, 2017. The theme for this years parade is MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN! The Grand Marshall will be a Donald Trump look-alike. The full parade was actually a April Fools' prank. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
The motorcade of US President Donald Trump arrives at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia, April 2, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 03 : (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'PRESIDENCY OF EGYPT / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (R) at the White House in Washington, United States on April 3, 2017. (Photo by Presidency of Egypt / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a chart showing the complexity of regulations as he speaks at the 2017 North America?s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and first lady Melania Trump (2ndL) welcome Jordan?s King Abdullah (R) and Queen Rania at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 
U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping chat as they walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump looks out the window as he departs the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, April 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Marine One carrying U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to land on South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US President Donald Trump claps for Neil Gorsuch after he took the judicial oath during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks during a strategic and policy discussion with executives at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. The Trump administration has been hobbled by botched policy roll-outs and an early failure on another signature promise -- health-care reform -- and it remains to be seen whether Trump's infrastructure pledges can translate to a permanent boost for business. Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) addresses a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - APRIL 13: US President Donald Trump arrives on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport to spend Easter weekend at Mar-a-Lago resort on April 13, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. President Trump has made numerous trips to his Florida home and according to reports has cost over an estimated $20 million in his first 80 days in office. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump drive outside the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 14, 2017. Picture taken April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Protestors take part in the 'Tax March' to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and his son Barron board Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. after Easter weekend, April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump, Jr., watch children roll Easter Eggs at 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs during a visit to the world headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool manufacturer, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a New England Patriots jersey as Head Coach Bill Belichick (L) watches during an event honoring the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) during a press conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American woman detained in Egypt for nearly three years on human trafficking charges, after she was flown back to the United States on Thursday, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump awards a Purple Heart to Army Sgt First Class Alvaro Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Guests watch a video of U.S. President Donald Trump as he addresses the 15th Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress in New York City, U.S., April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
With U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at his side, U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a working lunch with ambassadors of countries on the UN Security Council at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers the keynote address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's "Days of Remembrance" ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, U.S, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Sydney Chaffee receives the 2017 National Teacher of the Year award from U.S. President Donald Trump during an event at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump looks out a window of the Oval Office following an interview with Reuters at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives onstage to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People cheer as U.S. President Donald Trump appears on stage at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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"The border wall is about political theater at the expense of civil liberties," said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition immigrant advocacy group.

"It is not national security policy. Border communities are among the safest in the nation and patrolling them with tens of thousands of heavily armed, poorly trained, unaccountable agents puts lives at risks. This will turn these communities into de facto military zones," Ramirez said.

SEE ALSO: The Mexican peso is climbing after Trump tweets 'we will build the wall!'

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 he said the wall would span 1,000 miles (1,600 km) because of the terrain of the border.

RELATED: Scenes from Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C.

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Scenes from Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C.
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Scenes from Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C.
guests fill hte West Front of the US Caaptol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017, before the swearing-in ceremony of US President-elect Donald Trump. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, left, wipes the shoulder of U.S. President Barack Obama while standing outside of the White House ahead of the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Trump is the first president since the dawn of national polling in the late 1930s to enter office with the approval of fewer than half of Americans -- in his case only 40 percent. Photographer: TKTK/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Vanessa Trump and Jared Kushner arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The presidential motorcade drives down Pennsylvania Ave towards the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush wave as they arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn Carter arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US Chief Justice John Roberts (C-front) arrives with US justice William Rehnquist (L) on the platform of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017, before the swearing-in ceremony of US President-elect Donald Trump. / AFP / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former U.S. Preident George W. Bush and former first landy Laura Bush arrive at the swearing in ceremony at the United States Capitol January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States today. (Photo by Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / POOL / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
US President elect Donald Trump (R) and Vice President elect Mike Pence seat during the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as his wife Karen Pence looks on, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President elect Donald Trump (C) salutes his daughter Ivanka and other family members during the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as President on January 20, 2017 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Attendees listen as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees stand during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump(L) wait with former President Barack Obama(2nd-R) and Michelle obama before their departure from the US Capitol after Trump's inauguration ceremonies at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Many Democrats have opposed the plan and could try to thwart any legislation to pay for the construction in the U.S. Congress, although Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Trump said his directive would also end the practice known by critics as "catch and release" in which authorities apprehend illegal immigrants on U.S. territory but do not immediately detain or deport them.

The directives also include hiring 5,000 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to slip across the border and tripling the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and deport immigrants living in the United States illegally.

They also create more detention space for illegal immigrants along the southern border to make it easier and cheaper to detain and deport them.

Many Americans view their country with pride as "a nation of immigrants," and President John Kennedy wrote a book with that title more than half a century ago. Trump successfully tapped into resentment toward the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States and said during the campaign he would deport them all.

Trump, who in announcing his presidential bid in June 2015 accused Mexico of sending rapists and criminals into the United States, has also threatened to slap hefty taxes on companies that produce in Mexico for the U.S. market and to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement among Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.

Asked about Trump's wall, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain said a physical barrier was not enough to secure the border and called for the additional use of observation towers, drones and other technology.

"Walls can be easily breached," McCain, whose home state of Arizona borders Mexico, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.

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