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California Activists & Officials Blast Order for Border Wall

U.S. Air Force airmen install a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border east of San Luis, Ariz., on Oct. 3, 2006. Photo by Dan Heaton/Dept. of Defense
U.S. Air Force airmen install a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border east of San Luis, Ariz., on Oct. 3, 2006. Photo by Dan Heaton/Dept. of Defense 

Southland and California elected officials and activists wasted no time Wednesday lashing out at President Donald Trump's executive actions calling for construction of a wall along the Mexican border and slashing funding for so-called "sanctuary" cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

"These are serious times that call for serious solutions," said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles. "Yes, border security is a crucial pillar of comprehensive immigration reform, but a huge wall won't make us any safer, morally upright, reduce the deficit or energize our economy.

We need reform that provides real border security, unites families, protects American workers and offers an earned pathway to citizenship -- something that Democrats and I will continue to champion in the face of the crazy conservatism of Trump world," he said.

Trump signed his orders at the offices of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he called them a benefit to both the United States and Mexico. And he told DHS agents and workers that it would make their jobs easier.

"For too long, your offices and agents haven't been allowed to properly do their jobs," Trump said. "You know that, right? ... But that's all about to change. And I'm very happy about it and you're very happy about it. From here on out, I'm asking all of you to enforce the laws of the United States of America. They will be enforced and enforced strongly."

He said his actions were in response to "the unprecedented surge of illegal arrivals" in the country.

"A nation without borders is not a nation," he said. "Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders."

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Trump's orders will "harm public safety, tear families apart and jeopardize national security."

"Forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall isn't a solution, it's a political gesture," Harris said. "And telling cities they must deny public safety, education and health care services to children and families living within their jurisdiction will not make us more secure, it will mean fewer crimes reported and more families living in fear.

In its first few days, this new administration has consistently acted against the interests of those  who are voiceless and vulnerable," she said.

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the organization would continue to stand in support of the roughly 1 million immigrants living in Los Angeles County illegally.

"We have already strengthened protections for immigrant workers in collective bargaining agreements," Hicks said. "Now, with our state legislators and county Board of Supervisors, we will grow the 100 attorneys we have already organized into a much larger force to make sure every immigrant has a lawyer to defend their rights to a fair process.

Child on border wall at Brownsville, Texas | public domain photo
Border wall at Brownsville, Texas

For decades, Los Angeles and California have been stronger, more progressive and more prosperous than the rest of the nation," he said. "Unfortunately, President Trump has chosen to take our nation down the dark path of division and exclusion."

Building a border wall was a hallmark of Trump's presidential campaign, and he continues to insist that although the United States will be moving ahead with construction, Mexico will ultimately foot the bill -- something Mexican leaders have steadfastly denied.

"I'm just telling you there will be a payment," Trump said in an interview with ABC News. "It will be in a form -- perhaps a complicated form. And you have to understand 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."

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the group would stand in opposition to orders "disemboweling any semblance of unity and compassion for the millions of families who will be directly affected."

"Let there be no mistake about it," she said. "Today's executive orders on immigration are extremely costly to taxpayers, represent an affront to human decency, fall in the face of our nation's history and values and bring shame to a man who cannot from this day forward say he fights for justice and liberty for all."

Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called Trump's actions "alt-right, dog-whistle executive directives."

"Donald Trump's border "Wall Mahal" threatens to bankrupt the nation's treasury just as Trump has bankrupted his own businesses in the past through overblown construction projects," he said. "Because today's order only commences planning, Congress has the opportunity to prevent the profligate use of  federal resources to construct this monument to waste and excess."

Trump's actions coincided with the first meeting, scheduled for Wednesday night, of a Los Angeles City Council committee on immigrant affairs. Among the items on the panel's agenda is a reaffirmation of Los Angeles Police Department Special Order 40, which prevents officers from stopping people solely to question them on their immigration status. The department also does not detain people based solely on their immigration status.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, said the city does cooperate with immigration authorities, "particularly in cases that involve serious crimes, and always comply with constitutional detainer requests."

"What we don't do is ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws, and that's an official LAPD policy that has been enforced for nearly 40 years," he said. "That is for everyone's good, because trust between police and the people they serve is absolutely essential to effective law enforcement.

Everyone in L.A. should feel safe stepping forward if they have witnessed a crime or been victimized themselves -- and immigration status shouldn't interfere with th

e cooperation and partnership we need to keep our neighborhoods safe," he said.

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