President Donald Trump’s order Wednesday for construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall was met with anxiety and denunciations in some corners of Minnesota and satisfaction in others as the nation’s stance on immigration sped toward dramatic change.
Hearing the news broadcast in Spanish during lunch at the Lake Plaza Latino market on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, carpenter and U.S. citizen Gustavo Tapia, 52, said he worries about those planning to come to the United States.
“To build a wall is to put a blockade on Mexico,” Tapia said over a bowl of soup. “[It says,] ‘I want nothing from you and you want nothing from me.’ ”
Trump signed an executive order calling for the wall’s construction at a ceremony at the Department of Homeland Security, also signing orders that ramp up immigration enforcement by adding more detention centers and withholding federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Local Trump supporters who see the actions as needed for national security praised Trump. Others criticized the moves as unnecessary, immoral and anti-American.
Rick Aguilar, vice chairman of the Hispanic Republican Assembly of Minnesota, said it is refreshing to see campaign promises kept. “We were all in consensus that he was … going to build this wall,” he said. “I’m not surprised this is happening.”
Aguilar said he supports Trump’s order for greater enforcement along the border and that “the Latino community should be supporting the effort” to find those with criminal records.
Miguel Fiol, a physician at the University of Minnesota, said his Richfield church may give sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Fiol said he worries the enforcement priority for those with criminal offenses could lead to the deportation of others who have not committed crimes.
“There’s a high level of anxiety in our community,” he said.
The wall was a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign and a favorite subject of chants at his rallies, with the candidate promising he would bill Mexico for the wall’s construction. Though a popular talking point, the wall was rarely described in details such as its size, length or cost. The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for it. Some barriers already exist on the 2,000-mile border, and fences, drones, cameras and other technology cover other areas, not to mention border patrols.
Apprehensions of Mexican migrants at the U.S. border have fallen to levels not seen in nearly 50 years, while overall emigration rates have held steady since 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. About 188,000 migrants were apprehended in fiscal year 2015.
A former member of the all-volunteer “Minuteman Project” that roamed the U.S.-Mexico border, St. Cloud resident Ron Branstner, said he was glad to hear of the plans for a border wall, saying a section built earlier cut down on drug trafficking. However, Branstner questioned the need to make it a physical wall, suggesting technology and cameras could suffice in remote areas. He said an actual wall could disrupt wildlife in some areas.
“There are areas where a physical wall can work — like down in San Diego, I can understand that part,” he said.
Support for sanctuary
Also Wednesday, Trump ordered a crackdown on sanctuary cities, a move that could cost Minneapolis and St. Paul millions of dollars in federal grants, though local officials said it’s unclear what will happen. The order doesn’t define sanctuary jurisdictions, but both cities could be targeted because they passed ordinances that prevent local police from doing the work of federal immigration agents.
The point of those local ordinances — each more than 10 years old — is to aid law enforcement by encouraging undocumented immigrants to speak with police without fear of deportation. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman both say they have no plans to change the ordinances.
And at a news conference at the State Capitol, state lawmakers, city officials, religious leaders and community activists lined up to denounce the immigration orders.
Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, said opponents of the president’s plan to build a border wall will refuse to pay for it. “We are going to organize against it, because we need health care for our families, we need education,” she said. “We don’t need a wall.”
Local immigration attorney Gloria Contreras Edin spent Wednesday translating the orders into Spanish and talking with people worried about their future in the United States.
Contreras Edin said she was most concerned about Trump’s order setting enforcement priority for undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense or committed acts that would constitute a chargeable criminal offense.
“It’s going to cause a huge panic in our community,” she said, urging people in those categories to contact an immigration attorney. “This is the most relevant, because this relates to people already in the U.S.”
At a Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee meeting Wednesday night, two dozen people — teachers, college students, documented and undocumented workers — talked about how to help those threatened with deportation, including fundraisers to raise money for legal fees and “Know Your Rights” training.
Earlier, at the Lake Plaza market, as the news of Trump’s orders played overhead, people spoke with some resignation.
Candida Mendez, who works at Perkins as a baker, said she came from Mexico to find medical care for her daughters. One has heart disease and has needed two open-heart surgeries; the other has Down syndrome.
Mendez and her family have lived in Minneapolis for nine years. She is now considering returning to Mexico.
“Thanks to this country, my kids are healthy,” Mendez said.
Staff writers Erin Golden, Adam Belz and Karen Zamora contributed to this report.