Commentary - April 28, 2017 - by Ray Hagar
By Ray Hagar
After speaking with immigration proponents and protectors in the Nevada Legislature like Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, and Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, on Nevada Newsmakers, I've arrived to this conclusion:
Things started to get worrisome for immigrants, legal and illegal, in June of 2015. That's when Republican Donald Trump announced he was officially running for President. He said in his official announcement speech that Mexicans coming across the border are bringing in drugs and crime. He then added: "They're rapists."
He wrapped up the thought by adding, "“And some, I assume are good people."
Then, Trump was elected. Fears grew.
"This could all play out very badly and we can't pretend that is not a scenario," Benitez-Thompson said shortly after Trump's election victory.
In Trump's first 100 days, it hasn't got any easier.
"Folks are very scared," Cancela said recently on Nevada Newsmakers. "Uncertainty breeds fear.
"And what we see at the federal level is a lot of uncertainty because you have almost a year and a half of campaigning on anti-immigrant propaganda, from the 'Wall' to mass deportations and now to (U.S. Attorney General) Jeff Sessions coming after sanctuary cities.
"And taken together, it leads people to start changing their behaviors," Cancela said. "So you have people spending less time outside of the home. You have people asking a lot of questions about their legal status and what they can do. And what I have found out is the bulk of phone calls are for everything from travel visas to 'How do I become a U.S. citizen?' And I have done my best to direct people to the appropriate resources so they can get the help they need."
Even the DREAMers, those immigrants whose parents brought them to this county when they were children and had little say in the journey, have reason to worry, Cancela said.
Trump, however, has shown a soft spot for DREAMers in an otherwise get-tough immigration policy.
“To me, it (tough immigration policy) is one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids,” Trump said about DREAMers in February, according to the New York Times.
This month, Trump added DREAMers "should rest easy."
But when ABC's George Stephanopoulos recently asked Sessions if DREAMers can rest easy, he said: “Well, we’ll see. I believe that everyone who enters the country illegally is subject to being deported."
Cancela appreciates Trump's comments.
"Absolutely. And I think they reflect where the country is," Cancela said. "The majority of people, Republican, Independent, Democrat believe that DREAMers should be able to stay in this country. They were brought here by no fault of their own and are able to contribute and they should be allowed to do so."
She, however, is still concerned.
"One DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient has been detained for deportation, so whether or not the Trump administration is actually going to pursue actual deportation of DACA recipients, I think is yet to remain unseen," Cancela said. "I'm hopeful that the Trump administration will respect what is already is the law."
DREAMers may face a day or reckoning, Cancela said.
"The question then becomes what happens when DACA permissions start expiring?" she said. "And what happens to these kids who have had work status and have been able to contribute to our economy and are now forced back into the shadows? And when we hit that moment, we will have a real interesting discussion."
Hidden issue with Trump's 'Wall'
Besides getting funding from Congress, President Trump also faces another problem in getting his Wall built on the U.S. side of our border with Mexico, said Michael Chapman of the Fennemore Craig law firm (formerly known locally as Jones Vargas).
That issue is eminent domain, which is the power of the government to seize private property from citizens -- even if they don't want to sell -- as long as the government pays a 'fair' price.
Part of the $4 billion Trump wants for the Wall in the next two years is expected to be set aside to hire 20 lawyers to prosecute these eminent domain cases for the Trump administration, Chapman said on Nevada Newsmakers.
Time may not be on Trump's side. When President George W. Bush tried to improve the fence along the border in 2006 with the Border Security Act, it took federal lawyers seven years to get a single acre of land from a woman who refused to sell.
There is the potential that eminent domain issues could outlast an eight-year Trump presidency, although the government could get tough and really shorten the process, Chapman said.
"The federal government also has the authority to do a quick take, which means as soon as they file in court, the title automatically transfers," Chapman said. "And they can begin construction right away."
The wall has to be build on U.S. soil and that can cause a dilemma for some U.S. farmers and ranchers, Chapman said.
"Some of the land that people own in the United States is actually going to be isolated on the south side of the wall because where it (Wall) has to be constructed is not exactly on the border," he said.
"And if you are on the Rio Grande, that border keeps shifting anyway with the flow of the water over the centuries," Chapman said. "So for some of these people in the past, they have actually had to give them a gate and a key to go to their land on the other side of the wall or the fence, to work on it. So, how secure it is actually? I don't know."