By Rafael Bernal
January 25, 2017
Democrats and Hispanic leaders railed against President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration Wednesday, labeling the proposals ineffective, wasteful and inhumane.
"The United States is the shining light of freedom, liberty, and prosperity to the world. We welcome all who are willing to work hard to achieve their American dream,” Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
“A wall is the exact opposite of what America stands for."
Trump signed two executive orders on immigration Wednesday, one calling for immediate construction of a wall on the Mexican border and increased immigration enforcement, and the other for cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities.
"Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders," Trump said at the Department of Homeland Security.
The second order also called for withholding federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, municipalities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
Thomas Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund warned that Trump’s orders would "undermine public safety" by alienating local law enforcement from immigrant communities. He also warned that the increased threat of deportation could force immigrants into hiding, disrupting the labor market.
"Economic disruption to industries such as agriculture render these orders a threat to U.S. national security," Saenz said.
“Stripping funding from cities like Las Vegas endangers the health and safety of all Nevadans and is a wrong-headed approach to a nuanced issue. Not all undocumented immigrants are ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals.’ I was once undocumented – now, I’m a member of Congress,” said Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.).
House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said cutting funding for sanctuary cities could damage local law enforcement, but questioned how the Trump administration would choose which cities to target.
"There is no legal definition of a sanctuary city," Hoyer pointed out.
Democrats and activists lamented the appropriation of funds for the wall.
The border wall would cost an estimated $8 billion to $25 billion. The executive order asked for the Department of Homeland Security to use any available funds to start construction, although Trump vowed that Mexico would reimburse the cost per his campaign promise.
Mexican officials could not be reached for comment.
“There's no indication whatsoever that the moderate Republicans would go along with the cost of the wall," said Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.).
Democrats also railed against the effectiveness of a border wall, saying it would do little to limit immigration and would be prohibitively expensive to build.
"As far as the wall is concerned, I suspect that a lot of Trump supporters would be just as happy with a big statue of a middle finger pointed south, because both are about equally effective as national security strategies," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
The feasibility of the orders was also questioned, as Trump will need congressional approval to fully fund the announced actions.
"It’s clear that many elements of what was announced today overreach the limits of executive authority and will require acquiescence from Congress," said Saenz.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday that Republican leaders in Congress should be prepared to challenge Trump on construction of the wall – though he was not optimistic they would.
"If Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are not willing to stand up to a guy who has imagined that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally, then I don't know what they're going to stand up to him on. And that should give many people in this country, both Republicans and Democrats, and all Americans of good conscience, real pause," Castro added.
On a call with reporters, Castro also warned that the wall could drive Mexico -- a key trading partner -- away from the American sphere of influence.
"President Trump's actions represent a hostility towards Mexico, one of our best friends and trading partners," he said.
"He is driving Mexico into China’s hands."
Hispanic leaders vowed to confront the policies through litigation and political action.
"Remember, this is a bully and he will continue to bully us if we just continue to put down our heads and walk home," said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.).
""The executive actions on immigration announced by President Trump today are simply un-American,” said César J. Blanco, political director of the Latino Victory Project.
“President Trump’s executive actions go against the principles and values that our country was founded on and will only tear families apart."
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