Trump's border wall talk spurs anxiety, resolve, dismay among Ogden Latinos

Saturday , January 28, 2017 - 5:00 AM3 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Severa Vazquez, originally from Mexico, takes what President Donald Trump says with a measure of skepticism.

Trump — who’s made illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico, a hallmark issue — is now talking about imposing a 20-percent tax on Mexican imports to finance his proposal to augment the wall dividing the two countries.

It spurred Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a planned visit to Washington D.C. and caused a rift in relations between the two countries. Among Latinos and their advocates in Ogden — where more than 30 percent of the population is Hispanic, most with roots in Mexico, according to U.S. Census Bureau data — the turn has spurred a mix of anxiety, resolve and dismay.

“He said all of that,” Vazquez said Friday, referencing Trump’s tough talk, “but who knows if he’ll do it.”

Still, it makes Vazquez wonder why Trump is so hard on Mexicans. “Why does he get so irritated with Mexicans? There aren’t just Mexicans here. They come from all countries,” she said.

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DeVon Romero, a U.S. citizen of Mexican descent who’s active locally in the Democratic Party, says Trump’s continued focus on undocumented immigrants from Mexico is causing anxiety among some, fearful of deportation. But it’s also increasing resolve in the Latino and immigrant community, he thinks.

“It’s getting people to stand up to the ignorance,” Romero said. “Within the immigrant community, it’s just bringing us together and it’s going to make us stronger in the long run.”

Romero is acquainted with several immigrants who have tapped an initiative launched under former President Barack Obama — now at risk under Trump — that allows them to remain in the country lawfully, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Marcela Julian, who crossed into the United States illegally many years ago and is now a U.S. citizen, thinks the notion of beefing up the wall between the U.S. and Mexico is an exercise in futility. Immigrants set on coming to the United States will find a way.

“I just think he’s wasting good money on something that’s not going to work,” said Julian, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. “If we’re pushed too much to the edge, something will be done.”

‘Made by Latinos’

Trump’s talk of building a wall and cracking down on immigrants — the focus of a three-day Standard-Examiner series earlier this month, “Undocumented and Uncertain” — isn’t new. It was a key part of his successful presidential bid, and it’s been on the minds of many Latinos.

“There’s a high level of anxiety about what he’ll do,” said Jonathan Bachison, an Ogden attorney who handles many immigration cases. Mostly, the concern is about an indiscriminate crackdown on undocumented immigrants by federal authorities.

But at the same time, adding to the U.S.-Mexico wall may be of “meaningless” to those already here because additional border security won’t impact them. Likewise, Bachison is skeptical the United States would actually implement the 20-percent tax on Mexican goods, as threatened by a Trump administration official to generate the revenue to add to the wall, “because it’s bad policy.”

In fact, he sees room for optimism for immigrant advocates. “My own anxiety level has actually gone down,” he said.

If the Trump administration does add to the border wall, he thinks it may be enough to prod the GOP-led Congress to take a broader look at immigration reform, an issue federal lawmakers have long side-stepped. Change — “something positive for the immigrants that are here” — could result, he said.

Either way, Vazquez cites the contribution of Latinos and Latino immigrants to the U.S. economy as a potential hedge against anything too drastic from Trump.

“I think if he kicks out all the Mexicans, what’s going to happen to the country? This country was made by Latinos,” she said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or reach him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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