BROWNVSILLE, RGV – The three U.S. Representatives who represent the Rio Grande Valley in Congress have come out strongly against President Trump’s executive order to jumpstart construction of a border wall.
All three, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Filemon Vela of Brownsville, and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, are Democrats.
Representatives Vela and Gonzalez issued a joint news release on Wednesday.
Vela said: “President Trump’s executive action is ignorant, short-sighted, and continues to mislead the American people. A border wall would only be a simplistic semblance of a solution for complex regional challenges that can only be addressed through collaboration with our partners in Latin America, not through grandstanding. He still wants the American people to believe that Mexico will pay for an absurd border wall that has been estimated to cost up to $14 billion dollars, but don’t let him fool you. It is a great big lie. You will be paying for it, and it won’t solve anything.”
Gonzalez said: “If President Trump is serious about securing our border, he should work with Members of Congress to develop smart and effective plans to do so,” said Representative Gonzalez. “His plan to build a wall is neither smart nor effective. In fact, it reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the issues facing communities on the U.S.-Mexico border and the security measures already in place. We have technology and manpower capable of surveilling and protecting our borders – let’s continue to invest in that, not in an antiquated, expensive, and ineffective border wall, which is an insult to our friend and neighbor to the south, Mexico.”
Rep. Cuellar called President Trump’s executive orders disappointing.
“Today, President Trump made the disappointing move of signing an executive order setting the wheels in motion for the potential construction of a wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. This is a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem; and a decision I cannot support.
“As a law and order Democrat and a longtime advocate for tighter border security, I believe there are more effective and efficient ways to secure our borders, such as technologies currently deployed by the Department of Homeland Security including unmanned aerial systems, aerostats, video surveillance systems, and ground sensors; along with adding improvements to river access roads and increasing the number of Border Patrol agents on the ground.
“During his campaign, President Trump ran on the idea of having Mexico pay for the building of a wall. Now, he is calling for U.S. taxpayers to front the bill with a cost running into the tens of billions.
“Through this order President Trump is missing an opportunity to build on a great relationship that the U.S. and Mexico currently enjoy. Instead, the building of a border wall will divide our two countries that have long-standing and mutually-beneficial cultural and economic ties. American success in a global economy depends on cooperation, not isolation.
“I will continue to fight to make the concerns of border communities a priority for Congress and the country. I am committed to doing my part in Congress to develop effective and efficient solutions that will address immigration and secure our borders, while not adversely affecting the international trade and tourism that is vital to our economy.”
El Paso Legislative Delegation
The El Paso State Legislative Delegation also came out against President Trump’s executive orders. The delegation consists of state Sen. José Rodríguez, state Rep. Joe Pickett, state Rep. Joseph Moody, state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, state Rep. Cesar Blanco, and Rep. Lina Ortega. Their statement reads:
“Today, the President of the United States used his office to attack border communities and immigrants. His announcement is disappointing but not surprising, given his rhetoric as a candidate,” the El Paso Legislative Delegation stated.
“A wall will violate the private property rights of Americans, be prohibitively expensive, and be ineffective. The only return on investment is political, and it sends a signal to the rest of the world that America is no longer the beacon of hope for the tired and poor, who given the opportunity in our country become exceptional, just as our parents and grandparents.
“If the President talked to border residents, he would hear that we need to strengthen and streamline our ports of entry, so that we can build upon our economic, cultural, and social ties with our neighbors. He would hear that we want to build bridges, not walls. We are one of the safest communities in the country because we do not target immigrants – we welcome them. Despite policies from the federal and state level that diminish instead of build our border communities, we will continue to do so.”
The Rio Grande Guardian received dozens of news releases about President Trump’s executive orders. Most were hostile. One of the few that was supportive came from the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Federation for American Immigration Reform
The following statement was issued by Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) President Dan Stein in response to President Trump’s executive orders:
“President Trump’s executive actions are an historic, much-needed course correction in America’s approach to immigration policy, which has been on autopilot for decades. By taking meaningful steps to regain border security and enhance interior immigration enforcement, the administration is underscoring the primacy of the national interest. These long overdue policy steps will protect public safety and American jobs.
“Restarting construction of the border wall and fencing, which Congress committed to in 2006, and boosting the number of immigration enforcement personnel, in conjunction with policies that end incentives to illegal immigration, will go a long way in making effective border control a reality. Clearly, a border that offers easy entry for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens each year is a public safety and national security concern.
“For far too long, criminal aliens have walked the streets of America because their home countries have refused to take them back. The administration’s decision to withhold visas from those countries until they accept the return of their citizens will both reduce crime and save American lives.
“The president’s decision to strip federal funds from dangerous sanctuary cities is also a welcomed move. Today’s action fulfills a key promise he made to American families – including the ‘Angel Moms’ who are with him today – that their government will protect them, not deportable criminal aliens. While this action will not bring back the thousands of innocent lives lost or destroyed by reckless sanctuary policies, it will go a long way to making sure this senseless and preventable carnage doesn’t continue. FAIR’s sanctuary city report breaks out by state some 300 known sanctuary jurisdictions across the country, with most having enacted their sanctuary policies since President Obama took office in 2009.
“Looking forward, we hope the Administration moves quickly on securing the workplace against illegal immigration. The jobs magnet continues to lure illegal immigrants to the U.S. Implementing mandatory E-Verify will ensure that American jobs are reserved for legal U.S. workers.”
Here are some of the other statements made about President Trump’s executive orders on border security and immigration:
William C. Velasquez Institute
WCVI President Antonio Gonzalez issued this statement about President Trump’s executive order regarding a border wall:
“The southern border with Mexico has experienced near zero or zero net migration since 2007, thus there is no rational basis for a border wall. Doing so will waste tens of billions of tax dollars while doing little to enhance border security which is effective today due to a budget of billions for hundreds of miles of fencing, 20,000 border guards, radar, and drones.
“Instead a 2,000-border wall will harm the bi-national border economy and environment and increase human rights violations. It will become a symbol (like the Berlin and Jerusalem Walls) of proxy wars, hatred, and failures of leadership
“Needless to say, Mexico should not concede to these aggressions.”
On the issue of sanctuary cities, Gonzalez said:
“WCVI also opposes the Executive Order federally defunding sanctuary cities. These cities only acted to protect and include their immigrant populations because of decades of Congressional failure to fix America’s broken immigration laws. Sanctuary cities should be applauded not penalized.
“Taken together with his declared intention to renegotiate NAFTA, initiate a trade tax and accelerate deportations, Mr. Trump’s actions comprise a declaration of cold war against Mexico and immigrants. Congress and all Americans of good faith must resist Mr. Trump’s cold war.
“WCVI calls on all U.S. Latino elected officials and organizations and their allies to continue their protests and legal/legislative actions in opposition to Mr. Trump’s attacks. We must make Mr. Trump and his supporters understand that demagogic words and actions come at political, economic and ultimately electoral cost. We must make Mr. Trump and his supporters understand that xenophobia and protectionism are historically failed ideologies and policies.
“We must make Mr. Trump and his supporters understand that inclusion (not exclusion) is the only viable and humane way to resolve these issues in US-Mexican relations and immigration reform.”
American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, offered this statement:
“President Trump has given 11 million people an excellent reason never to talk to law enforcement officers, which will endanger our communities and foment fear among our friends and neighbors. Gov. Abbott wants to go one step further, defy the Texas and U.S. Constitutions and remove local officials from office should they understand how wrongheaded and self-destructive this policy will be and choose not to follow it. Our state and national lawmakers must stop this anti-immigrant grandstanding madness before it’s too late.”
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, had this reaction to Trump’s border plan:
“President Trump’s fantasy of sealing the border with a wall is driven by racial and ethnic bias that disgraces America’s proud tradition of protecting vulnerable migrants. The DHS deportation force has a track record of racial profiling and excessive force abuses, and expanding it will further erode the rights of millions of people who call our safe border communities home. Locking up asylum seekers who pose no danger or flight risk is unconstitutional and benefits nobody except private prison corporations and politicians looking to score rhetorical points. We will see the Trump administration in court if they go down that road.”
On Trump’s restrictive sanctuary cities order, Jadwat said:
“President Trump is threatening to punish localities for establishing constitutional safeguards and for protecting the public safety of their entire communities. He may hope that local officials will buckle under his threats, but they have been preparing to defend their policies and we will stand with them in court.”
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) released a statement from Executive Director Arturo Vargas regarding the immigration related executive actions signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
“With Inauguration Day now behind us, the time has come for President Donald Trump to govern responsibly and bring our nation together. Modernizing our nation’s immigration system continues to be one of the top issues for Americans, making it critical that President Trump and Congress to work together to fix a problem that has been ignored for far too long,” Vargas said.
“While we appreciate efforts by President Trump to begin this process in his first week in office, the executive actions signed into law today are a misguided first step. The construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico would not only be costly and ineffective policy, but also a divisive act that is contrary to our history as a nation of immigrants.”
Vargas said that as outlined in the NALEO immigration principles set forth by a bipartisan group of Latino elected officials and leaders, overhauling the U.S. immigration system will require a plan that balances both national security interests and the humane treatment of immigrants.
“The executive action signed today does not balance these two ideals, flying in direct opposition to NALEO’s immigration principles and our values as a nation. We oppose the construction of a border wall on the basis of NALEO’s principles, and will continue to work towards real and meaningful immigration reform that promotes public safety and acknowledges the significant contributions made by immigrants to this nation.”
National Sanctuary Movement
Rev. Noel Andersen, CWS National Grassroots Coordinator, said: “The Sanctuary Movement is growing stronger every day, with more than 800 congregations strongly committed to protecting our immigrant brothers and sisters and standing with them during these trying times. The Sanctuary Movement has a long tradition of civil initiative, holding the government accountable to their own asylum laws. This is another case wherein numerous federal courts have found ICE practices to be unconstitutional when using detainer holds. We encourage all cities to hold true to the 4th amendment in our Constitution and keep their sanctuary policies intact–so that we can protect all members of our communities.”
Rabbi Jonathan D. Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, said: “As the “America First President” and his xenophobic attempts to dismantle the spirit of our nation’s welcoming message, emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” people of faith throughout California utterly reject the politics of scapegoating any sub-community. Instead, we pledge Sacred Resistance to policies of divisiveness and solidarity with our fellow community members living in fear. Rabbis, ministers, and other religious leaders have pledged to protect all human beings, regardless of immigration status, from the hate-filled Executive Orders that define this President’s first days as one of the least popular in history.”
Rev. Kenneth Heintzelman, Sr. Minister, Shadow Rock UCC, said: “Shadow Rock UCC welcomes immigrants in need of Sanctuary in the spirit of the values that best represent the United States and our faith tradition. The values of hope, freedom, opportunity and justice support the immigrant story which is ultimately the story of all of us. President Trump’s actions, though draped with a thin cloak of patriotism, actually goes against the narrative of what it means to be a proud citizen that knows our history and what it means to be a person of faith who strives to love God and neighbor.”
Pastor Alli Baker, Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ a congregation who helped pass the Sanctuary city ordinance in Chicago is also currently assisting two asylum seekers added this comment: “On Martin Luther King Jr. day, we remembered his Vietnam speech, when he said, now is the time to ‘move past indecision to action.’ Today we must ask ourselves, before the requests come – what are we willing to risk to truly be a Sanctuary city/church/space?”
Adrianna Quintero, executive director of Voces Verdes, said:
“Donald Trump’s actions today ignore the fact that the United States is a country of immigrants, and millions of immigrants have helped us build and grow into a dynamic, prosperous, and free America that is still a beacon of hope worldwide. Trump’s actions today are divisive and dangerous and will bring negative consequences to our economy, our safety, the environment and our leadership position in the world.
“Building a border wall is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars and a ludicrous policy that will not secure our country nor solve the existing immigration crisis. Its construction will cause serious environmental harm that will disproportionally affects communities on both sides of the border.”
“President Trump promised to unite our country but his actions prove otherwise. We stand in solidarity with immigrant and refugee communities against these discriminatory and divisive actions.”
Women’s Refugee Commission
Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, responded to President Trump’s executive orders with the following statement:
“Denying access to protection for those fleeing persecution flies in the face of U.S. obligations to protect the persecuted, and will not make Americans safer. Border security policies that focus on deterrence and sacrifice due process have already made it very difficult for asylum seekers at our borders to exercise their right to seek protection and access a fair and humane asylum system. Today’s announcements risk making it almost impossible. Keeping asylum seekers entirely out of the United States helps no one; externalizing our borders is a direct violation of human rights and U.S. values.
“The Women’s Refugee Commission believes that today’s Orders will force women, children, and other migrants in a vulnerable situation arriving at our border into the hands of human smugglers and trafficking rings, which are often controlled by organized crime groups. This will not make us safer, but will instead empower criminal organizations. Aside from being the antithesis of cost efficient, these provisions will also greatly endanger asylum seekers who desperately need assistance.
“Similarly, the United States should not be in the business of separating families, whether at the border or as part of interior immigration enforcement. The Women’s Refugee Commission has long documented the trauma of family separation, the impact on state and local child welfare systems, and the obstacles that stand in the way of loved ones being reunited with one another or being able to seek legal relief together. Tearing apart families is inhumane and un-American.
“We urge President Trump to ensure that all immigrants, asylum-seekers and others, are able to exercise their right to protection and due process. The United States has a long history and tradition of being world leader in protecting vulnerable persons and accepting refugees into our country, and the Women’s Refugee Commission believes it can continue to do so, without jeopardizing our security and that, under President Trump, it should continue to do so, consistent with our country’s core values.”
Mi Familia Vota
Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said:
“We are a community united. We work every day creating a better future for our children and we share a belief that when we work together we are that much closer to that brighter future. President Donald Trump’s executive orders seek to divide us and in our community, we’re ready to show him he can’t break the bonds of family, friendship, mutual respect, and love.
“Today, Trump has placed the burden of an unnecessary and unpopular border wall on taxpayers through an executive order and because of the Republican Party’s inaction we have made no progress in furthering legislation that addresses what voters actually want accomplished: family unification and a pathway to citizenship through comprehensive immigration reform.
“He has also repeatedly blurred the lines between the responsibilities of local law enforcement and federal law enforcement. By continuously stating he will attack funding for cities and counties, that hold tremendous power in making a real difference in keeping families together, Trump is preventing them from providing clear, policy-based distinctions between their local responsibility to enforce criminal law and the federal government’s responsibility to enforce civil immigration law. He could put millions of mothers and fathers at risk of being unjustly targeted for deportations.
“The Trump team has also indicated they will be targeting refugees and the Muslim community through further executive orders. While the details of those orders remain unclear, history offers us a clear lesson. Offering safety to those fleeing violence has been a proud part of our nation’s history and actions targeting a particular group for exclusion are a dark part of our nation’s history. We have the ability to choose what happens next and what history we’d like to repeat.
“Together, we must demand the Trump Administration and the Republican Party recognize how they are putting the future of this country, our families and our children, at risk through these policies. To hold the Trump Administration and the Republican Party accountable, we must continue organizing and acting in solidarity with one another to create a better future through our vote, through our civic participation, and by calling out lawmakers who would divide us. Our civil liberties were given to us by the U.S. Constitution and we will fight for them.”
American Immigration Council
Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said:
“These policies are a flagrant attack on immigrants and our values as Americans. Our laws dictate that everyone receives a just and fair process, whether they have been in this country for decades or are arriving today in search of safety and protection. We will not tolerate Trump’s ill-conceived policies that sideline due process. We will continue to defend the rights of immigrants and are prepared to challenge unlawful and abusive tactics in the courts. We will shine a light on the misuse of power and hold the government accountable.
“Our nation needs a practical and efficient immigration policy that honors immigrants’ contributions, fuels our economy, protects families, and benefits all Americans. The President’s call to invest in immigrant detention, aggressive deportation strategies, and an unnecessary, expensive border wall is not practical, efficient, nor consistent with our values. It sends a signal that America is closed for business and that our doors are shut to those in need. We at the American Immigration Council believe in an America that honors our diversity and ingenuity and celebrates the fact that we are, and always will be, a nation of immigrants. We will carry on the fight for this America.”
Amnesty International USA
Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, was also highly critical of President Trump’s executive orders on border security and immigration policy. Huang said Amnesty International’s “I Welcome” campaign protects the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum by documenting human rights abuses and pressing governments to do their fair share to address what it believes is a humanitarian crisis.
Huang said in the U.S., Amnesty International is working to protect refugee resettlement programs and access to asylum at the U.S southern border, in particular the practice of automatically detaining children and their mothers who are seeking asylum.
“Today President Donald Trump issued several executive orders related to immigration, including constructing a wall on the border with Mexico, building more detention centers, and stripping sanctuary cities of federal funding,” Huang said.
“We will fight this dangerous move with everything we’ve got,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “This wall would say that those from outside the United States, especially from Latin America, are to be feared and shunned – and that is just wrong.”
Huang said Amnesty International USA’s members and supporters will demand that Congress protect people seeking asylum, including those fleeing violence in Latin America.
“We won’t let President Donald Trump create refugee camps along the U.S./Mexico border like the ones we’ve seen in Greece, Australia, and other countries,” Huang said. “Sanctuary city policies help protect people’s human rights in part by ensuring that the proper authorities are empowered to do their job. Local law enforcement should be working with communities to protect their safety and not acting as immigration agents.”
Editor’s Note: Reporters Dayna Reyes and Melva Lavín-Castillo contributed to this story.