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A Day We Were All Afraid Of: Immigrant Rights Activist Speaks Out After Trump Takes Executive Action

StoryJanuary 26, 2017
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Wednesday marked the biggest single day of changes to U.S. immigration policy in recent memory. In a press conference at the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump announced and signed two executive orders to begin construction on a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to crack down on those who cross it. Trump’s directive also greatly increases the number of immigration enforcement personnel. The order also strips funding from so-called sanctuary cities. But mayors across the country, including those in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, say they will continue to allow police officers to refuse to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal authorities. We speak to Erika Andiola, a nationally known immigrant activist who served as a spokesperson for Senator Bernie Sanders and helped him craft immigration policy. She is the political director for Our Revolution.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Wednesday marked the biggest single day of changes to U.S. immigration policy in recent memory. In a news conference at the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump announced and signed two executive orders to begin construction on the border wall between U.S. and Mexico and to crack down on those who cross it.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The secretary of homeland security, working with myself and my staff, will begin immediate construction of a border wall. So badly needed. You folks know how badly needed it is, as a help, but very badly needed. This will also help Mexico by deterring illegal immigration from Central America and by disrupting violent cartel networks. As I’ve said repeatedly to the country, we are going to get the bad ones out: the criminals and the drug deals and gangs and gang members and cartel leaders. The day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc. We are going to get them out, and we’re going to get them out fast. And John Kelly is going to lead that way.

AMY GOODMAN: The construction of the expanded wall is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. It remains unclear how Trump’s directive will pay for the project. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto vowed Wednesday night not to pay for the wall. He’s set to meet with Trump next week but may now cancel his trip. Trump’s directive also greatly increases the number of immigration enforcement personnel.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our order also does the following: ends the policy of catch and release at the border, requires other countries to take back their criminals—they will take them back, cracks down on sanctuary cities, empowers ICE officers to target and remove those who pose a threat to public safety, calls for the hiring of another 5,000 Border Patrol officers, calls for the tripling the number of ICE officers.

AMY GOODMAN: The order also strips funding from so-called sanctuary cities. But mayors across the country, including those in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, say they’ll continue to allow police officers to refuse to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal authorities.

For more, we’re going to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Erika Andiola, a nationally known immigrant activist who served as a spokesperson for Bernie Sanders, helped him craft immigration policy. She’s the political director for Our Revolution, recently spoke at the Women’s March on D.C. She is a DACA recipient, or DREAMer, who grew up in Arizona. In 2013, her house was raided. Immigration agents picked up her mother and her brother.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Erika. Can you, overall, respond to this historic day yesterday? More changes to immigration policy in one day than we have ever seen.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Absolutely. Well, first off, thank you for having me. And yesterday was definitely a day that all of us were afraid was going to happen. There was several changes that, you know, have been, basically, horrifying for our communities. And we’re—you know, I think, for a lot of us in the immigrant rights movement and the progressive movement, we’re still—you know, we’re trying to figure out what’s the best way to resist this, but also making sure that we’re starting the organizing on the ground to make sure that our people are ready for this.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s take each—each executive order that President Trump has laid out. Start with what concerns you most, Erika.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: You know, I think most of the points that he touched on yesterday concern me a lot. I think, for us, you know, one of the—at least for myself—I’m from Arizona, so I have seen what it is to use the police, to use local law enforcement, to basically cooperate with ICE, and not only that, but to make sure that, you know, you increase the number of people that end up in deportation proceedings or deported. And what he did yesterday, basically, you know, makes that so much easier and makes Arizona sort of a national—at the national level. And so, you know, I think we need to make sure that we are ready in all fronts. You know, I think, for many of us, it is our responsibility—

AMY GOODMAN: Well—

ERIKA ANDIOLA: —to make sure—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me go to President Trump’s plans for DACA, or the Deferred Action on Childhood [Arrivals], which has provided temporary deportation relief and work authorization to almost 800,000 young people. Democracy Now! spoke to a DACA recipient last night in New York during a rally against Trump’s new orders.

CESAR VARGAS: My name is Cesar Vargas. I’m the co-director of the DREAM Action Coalition. And I’m also undocumented. For myself, I am here because this directly impacts me and my mother, who’s also undocumented. And we could be subject to deportation. But at the same time, I’m here to elevate my voice, to show my faith, that we’re not afraid, that we’re not going to let fear dictate what we do in the next four years, and we’re not going to let Trump’s ego or his Twitter account really target us.

One of his executive actions is ending DACA, the President Obama’s deportation relief program. And I could lose my driver’s license. I could lose my home. I could lose my work authorization and my law license as New York’s first undocumented attorney. So, there’s a lot at stake, which is why we’re here, because we’re fighting because there is a lot at stake.

AMY GOODMAN: With the loss of deferred action status, DACA recipients revert to being undocumented. But unlike most undocumented immigrants, the government knows exactly who they are and where they live. Erika Andiola, you’re a DACA recipient. So, talk about what is going to happen. It is not clear yet what happens to DACA folks.

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, yeah. And our understanding is that, you know, it was one of his promises, that he would end the program. We know that there is internal pushback. There’s some, you know, people within the administration that want to make sure that he moves forward with getting rid of the program. There’s other people within the administration and other Republicans who are telling him not to do it. We don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s also—you know, I think right now there’s a lot of uncertainty of how it would happen, whether—as my example, is my DACA expires in February, so literally a month from now. So, they could wait until that expires, not give—you know, make sure that doesn’t get renewed. We could leave some—they could leave some people with DACA. Or they could literally say, “You can no longer work. You need to give back the work permits.” We don’t know exactly how it’s going to work, but it’s definitely concerning to a lot of people, given that, you know, it is a program that has helped—not only helped DACA recipients, but it has given so much back to the country. And so, we’re hoping that he makes the right decision, that the GOP and those folks that are a lot more moderate, that know exactly what DREAMers have contributed to this country, you know, convince him not to do this, which would be devastating for a lot of our community members.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about President Trump’s plans to expand the border wall. His pick to head homeland security secretary, retired General John Kelly, was skeptical of the effectiveness of a border wall during his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

JOHN KELLY: A physical barrier, in and of itself—certainly, as a military person that understands defense and defenses, a physical barrier, in and of itself, will not do the job. It has to be really a layered defense. If you were to build a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, you’d still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, by sensors, by observation devices.

AMY GOODMAN: So, analysts say Trump’s plans for a border wall could still face several challenges, including lawsuits from landowners, as well as environmental and engineering obstacles. The Government Accountability Office estimates the cost of building a single-layer fence along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico would the $6.5 million per mile, plus an additional $4.2 million per mile for roads and more fencing. This doesn’t include maintenance of the fence. Some experts put the total cost of Trump’s border wall at $14 billion. Over the last decade, the U.S. has already installed 700 miles of fencing, tens of thousands of motion sensors, as well as spy towers, radar systems, Predator surveillance drones, thousands of law enforcement agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. So, can you respond to this, Erika?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, I mean, first of all, you know, the border has—is the most secured border than any time in history, per GOP’s wishes or the people who have been advocating for a secure border. But the fact is that it’s not—it’s not going to change the lot. And the reality is that if he wants to waste taxpayer dollars, if he wants to go to Congress and ask for more money to build this wall, it’s not going to do much in terms of immigration policy. The reality is, this is bigger than a wall. The reality is that people are coming from other countries because they have a necessity to do so. And the fact is that we haven’t even dealt with what is happening here in the U.S. with the undocumented community. And so, you know, for me, it’s definitely not worth building this wall for millions of reasons. And, you know, we’re hoping that when this goes to Congress, that our elected officials and our leaders decide the right thing and, again, like I said, not waste people’s money on something that’s not going to work.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika, I want to ask—after Trump issued his order to strip funding from cities that shield undocumented immigrants, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed mayors across the country in saying he would not allow police officers to be used as immigration enforcement agents. This is what he said.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: We will not deport law-abiding New Yorkers. We will not tear families apart. We will not leave children without their parents. We will not take breadwinners away from families who have no one else. And we’re not going to undermine the hard-won trust that has developed between our police and our communities. This executive order is very vague. And our corporation counsel, Zach Carter, is here, former U.S. attorney earlier in his life, and made very clear to me today that if any action is taken as a result to restrict our funding, at that point we will bring legal action to stop it.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Erika Andiola, we just have five seconds, but sanctuary cities and states, like California?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Absolutely. So this is a time for the sanctuary cities all over the country and other cities to step up, progressive cities, and protect our community members. California is leading the charge. SB 54 is going to do that. We’re hoping that California actually passes the bill and that it spreads across the country to protect our communities.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika Andiola, I want to thank you very much for being with us, a political director for Our Revolution.

I’ll be speaking tomorrow, Friday, at 1:00 p.m. at Dolly’s Bookstore here in Park City.

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