President Donald Trump’s move to go forward with plans for securing the border drew praise from supporters and concerns from immigrants and refugees’ allies in North Texas.
Trump backers said the measures show the president is protecting the U.S. border as promised.
“It’s about time,” said Tim O’Hare, Tarrant County GOP chairman. “A country is not a country without borders.”
O’Hare said he also supports state and federal crackdowns on local government officials who push so-called sanctuary policies of not cooperating with federal officials on immigration laws. He said those community leaders are disobeying federal law and it’s appropriate for them to face penalties.
“I hope President Trump takes a very hard stance on sanctuary cities,” O’Hare said.
Andrew Le, a 49-year-old from Fort Worth who came to the United States as a refugee, said he supports a border wall to protect the country from illegal immigrants, drug traffickers and potential terrorists.
“You don’t sleep at night with your doors unlocked,” said Le, whose father was an ally of the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
Immigrants’ allies criticized Trump’s actions, calling them an attack on immigrants and “un-American.”
“America embraces all of those yearning to breathe free and reaching for the door of opportunity, because we were founded on securing the blessings of liberty and our posterity for all,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
Douglas D. Interiano, CEO of Proyecto Inmigrante ICS, Inc. in North Texas, said his organization is committed to helping immigrant families in Fort Worth and Dallas.
“We will work with local law enforcement authorities, elected officials, and other organizations to find a common solution toward a comprehensive immigration reform,” Interiano said. “We believe in building bridges, not walls.”
Trump is also considering a ban on refugees from Syria and countries that are believed to be breeding grounds for terrorists — actions that weren’t included in the border enhancement executive order. Many of those refugees have come to Texas, and Trump supporters would welcome additional restrictions.
“If it makes us safer, it’s a step in the right direction,” O’Hare said of a potential ban or slowdown of refugee resettlement.
Refugee advocates said people fleeing war and persecution need compassion.
“We stand with refugees,” said Scott Arbeiter, World Relief President. “Standing with us are many thousands of American citizens in congregations and communities across the nation who have joined us in this cause. We do so remembering that many of our ancestors came to this nation fleeing the persecution of their day. In a day in which the world faces the greatest humanitarian crisis we have known we cannot be slow to act. Far too much is at risk.”
World Relief is among refugee resettlement organizations that work in Tarrant County, which typically ranks third highest in Texas among counties resettling refugees. Refugee Services of Texas and Catholic Charities also have long helped people in flight find new lives in Tarrant County.
Nationwide, there were 31,143 individual refugee arrivals between Oct. 1, 2016, through Jan. 25, according to data provided through the Refugee Processing Center operated by the U.S. Department of State.
Texas had been leading the country in refugee arrivals. But in January, California overtook Texas and took the lead with 3,089 individual refugee arrivals for the period from Oct. 1, 2016, through Jan. 25. Texas followed with 2,914. New York was third with 1,774 refugee arrivals.
In Texas, most refugees typically settle in Harris, Dallas and Tarrant counties.
Refugee resettlement groups and churches have long opened their doors to refugees fleeing conflicts worldwide — from the Fall of Saigon to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Texas received 339 Syrians out of 4,788 that arrived between Oct. 1, 2016, and Jan. 25.
Uncertainty about DACA
Trump’s plans for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program are not clear. Before the election, he pledged an immediate end to what he called an “illegal executive amnesty.” But he appears to have softened that stance since the election.
The border security actions came as some immigration allies continue monitoring what happens to people who are in the DACA program. More than 740,000 young people, who arrived without legal status as children, can work and study in this country through that program without fear of deportation.
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, is holding a summit and town hall on Saturday in Dallas to focus on the issue. His office has received calls from DACA allies and families anonymously contacting the office who are worried about their future in a Trump administration, according to his staff.
José Santoyo, a 24-year-old graduate student who relies on DACA, said there is a lot of “uncertainty”in the community, but many hope for the passage of the BRIDGE Act, which would provide applicants with “provisional protected presence” that would provide deportation relief and work authorization for over 750,000 young immigrants.
“There is a lot of unity coming out from a community that is resilient and that wants to fight back,” Santoyo said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.