New US President Donald Trump has signed executive orders that include authorising a "large physical barrier" on the US southern border.
Building a 3200km wall along the Mexican border was one of his key proposals during his presidential election campaign.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday (Thursday NZ time), Mr Trump said construction would start within months and Mexico would pay back to the United States "100 percent" of the costs.
Speaking at the Department of Homeland security after signing the directives, Mr Trump said for too long agents had not been able to properly do their jobs.
That was "about to change" and from now on they would be asked to enforce the law.
"We're going to restore the rule of law in the United States," he said.
Mr Trump said there was a crisis on the southern border and the steps he had taken today would improve safety of both the United States and Mexico.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today the order on the "barrier" was a "commonsense first step to really securing our porous border."
"This will stem the flow of drugs, crime, illegal immigration into the United States."
Mexico would pay for the wall "one way or another".
Action against "sanctuary cities"
Mr Spicer said other provisions in two orders being signed today would strip federal money from so-called sanctuary cities and end a "catch and release" policy of previous administrations.
"Sanctuary cities" are places that don't arrest or detain immigrants living in the country illegally.
The orders include plan to bolster the force that polices illegal immigration.
That would include hiring 5000 more US Customs and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to slip across the border and tripling the number of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and deport immigrants living in the United States illegally, congressional aides with knowledge of the plan said.
The president is also expected to take steps in the coming days to curb legal immigration.
This was likely to include 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.
Asked about Mr Trump's wall, US Republican 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," Mr McCain, whose home state of Arizona borders Mexico, told MSNBC.
Meanwhile, Mr Spicer denied reports of a draft White House order raising the possibility that overseas "black site" CIA-run prisons could be reopened.
Flurry of executive orders
In less than a week in office, President Trump has issued a flurry of executive orders including withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and reviving two controversial oil pipeline projects.
Washington correspondent Simon Marks said signing so many orders is par for the course for new presidents.
"It is worth remembering that Barack Obama signed several executive orders when he first entered the White House.
"One of them authorised the shutdown of a US government-run detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, and that detention facility is very much still open."
The executive orders, issued under the constitutional powers of the presidency, are direct federal agencies and departments to carry out certain actions.
Congress cannot overturn them but it can write and pass laws that alter the orders, or decide to restrict funding for specific policies. Orders can also be declared unconstitutional and vacated by the Supreme Court.
- Reuters / RNZ / BBC