President’s Executive Orders Put Immigrant Communities on Edge

Donald Trump signed executive orders that started the process of building a border wall.

By David Cruz

The president’s flurry of executive actions has immigrant communities and advocates on edge as the harsh rhetoric of the campaign translates now to executive fiat. With more immigration-focused action expected, the president issued two executive orders calling for the building of a southern border wall, hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, 10,000 more ICE agents, building detention facilities closer to the border, ending the so-called Catch and Release policy and expanding deportation criteria. It also threatens so-called sanctuary cities with a loss of federal funding.

“It’s time to restore the civil rights of Americans to protect their jobs, their hopes and their dreams for a much better future. Congress passed these laws to serve our citizens. And it’s about time those laws were properly enforced. They are not enforced,” said President Trump.

That drew immediate push-back from officials in East Orange, which recently officially declared itself a sanctuary city. Council President Ted Green says the city has promised to stand up for immigrants, documented and otherwise.

“We are not changing anything because we do believe that the policy that we have in place is a sound policy and it’s the right policy to have and East Orange always has been in the forefront in terms of being first on protecting people’s rights,” he said.

Newark hasn’t officially declared itself a sanctuary city but its policies mirror that point of view. Mayor Ras Baraka said he’s not surprised by the president’s actions since Trump has been threatening these measures since the beginning of his campaign.

“I think the people who are scared are probably innocent folks in this community who are undocumented, who are immigrants, who maybe feel like their life will be upended, that they will be arrested or deported or even attacked,” Baraka said.

But, like a lot of the president’s policy initiatives in the first few days, the threats to the so-called sanctuary cities are vague and could face legal challenges.

“The question is what kind of funding that he’s talking about that could affect municipalities, but we have already heard that a lot of municipalities in New Jersey, city mayors, like Ras Baraka in Newark, have come out and said that we believe in sanctuary policies, that’s within our right to adopt and we’re not going to comply with what the executive order says,” said American Friends Service Committee Organizing and Advocacy Director Chia-Chia Wang.

“If they say they’re not going to change, I can guarantee them something. Donald Trump is going to take away federal funding if you don’t comply with the law. And that’s what the executive order he signed said and I’m sure we’ll have a court fight over that and all of that and we’ll see where it lands, but do not doubt this guy’s resolve,” said Gov. Chris Christie.

The president could also target so-called DREAMers, those who were brought into the U.S. without documentation as children, a group protected by executive orders from President Obama. Marisol Conde-Hernandez, undocumented and in her final year of law school, laments what she sees as a complacency that has led to the current situation.

“I think that the collective inaction, whether that passiveness or passivity was due to relying on ‘hey look, we have our first president of color,’ assuming that that would bring about the change that we wanted. I think maybe that was where a lot of us went wrong,” she said. “So, yes, I’m angry. I’m angry at a lot of things. Sometimes I can’t even articulate why I’m angry, but I’m channeling it to further organize our communities to create the action, to not just create but to demand the action from the people that we hold accountable.”

“The week is not over yet. We heard that there will be more and the least we want to do is actually spread the rumor but we also want to be ready to be able to respond as soon as possible,” Wang said.

NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz spoke with Anchor Mary Alice Williams about the issue.

Williams: That import tax option announced by the White House spokesman. Is this an indication of Trump’s negotiating style?

Cruz: Yeah, I mean it’s not even yet a week yet into this administration and he seems to have set the entire nation on its head with a flurry of executive action, particularly as it pertains to Mexico. This is really kind of a dangerous track he’s going down because, I mean, for the Mexicans it’s a $300 billion market, the U.S. and a 20 percent tariff could have a serious impact on the economy there and what do we do when Mexico places its own tariff on the United States? And then if Mexico fails as an economy, what happens then?

Williams: Is there any indication that immigrant groups can galvanize to march on Washington or would that be just too dangerous?

Cruz: I think that’s a good question. We saw half a million people more in Washington, D.C. this weekend and millions around the world really. It’s a good question because the Democrats seemed to have been pushed on their heels and progressive communities seemed to have pushed back, have been pushed back on their heels. And it’s a question of can they get enough people out there and “illegals,” will they want to come out and protest as well because of danger to them?