Talk of deportations, building the wall stokes fears among local immigrants

- Executive orders on immigration issued by President Trump Wednesday are expected to have a chilling effect on social service agencies that serve Latinos.

"People have a tendency to stay in the shadows," Omar Carrera told KTVU, at the San Rafael offices of Canal Alliance. "We know because they're calling and they're scared."

More than 40,000 Latinos live in Marin County according to the latest census.

An estimated 16,000 are undocumented.

"I'm kind of nervous for my parents because they're not from here," 16 year old Brandon Gomez told KTVU, as he watched his younger sisters play at Pickleweed Park in the Canal neighborhood. 

Brandon and his sisters were born here, but their parents came from Guatemala two decades ago. They make their living cleaning houses.  

Brandon says at San Rafael High School, where he is a junior, most of his friends' parents are undocumented.

"They were looking for a better life because there's more opportunities here," he explained, "and in Guatemala and Mexico, there aren't those opportunities."

Wednesday, speaking at the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump promised to greatly expand the ranks at Border Patrol and Immigration Control Enforcement.

He also vowed to begin construction on the wall with Mexico that was a centerpiece of his campaign.

"We're in the middle of a crisis on our southern border," he exclaimed, adding "a nation without borders is not a nation."

Carrera watched the speech in his office at Canal Alliance, which has been advocating for Latino immigrants for more than 25 years.

"I don't want people to get distracted with the wall, because the wall is the last of our concerns," he told a staffer afterward.

Carrera believes the high cost of the wall will doom it, but he is alarmed that Trump's policies will criminalize people who have broken no laws other than a lack of documentation.

"Our police department has made it very clear, they are going to protect everyone, because that's their job," he declared, " and I am confident that relationship is going to continue."

San Rafael and Novato, Marin County's largest cities, are not official "sanctuaries" but their police agencies have traditionally taken a neutral approach on immigration status.

Under Barack Obama, 2.6 million people were deported from the United States, more than during any previous presidential administration.

President Trump indicated that he will build on those numbers.

"We are going to get the bad ones out," Mr. Trump exclaimed, "the criminals, the drug dealers, the gangs and cartel leaders. The day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc."

Omar Carrera noted, there is no data showing undocumented immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime.

He expressed concern that such rhetoric demonizes people who are mostly law-abiding and contributing to the economy.

"The Latino people are known for their values of hard work, family and community, " Carrera observed, "and when we are welcomed, we are very loyal people."

Carrera came from Ecuador, speaking no English,and found Canal Alliance, first as a client, then later as a volunteer, and staffer.

Fifteen years later, he runs the organization.

He notes, people don't leave the familiarity of home casually.

"It's not like they wake up and say 'what am I going to do today, how about crossing the desert to a country I don't know, and see what happens'", he noted.

Instead, he says people come under extreme duress.

As the sun set at Pickleweed Park, teenager Brandon strapped his sister into her stroller and predicted that uneasy times are ahead, but that most people will carry on.

"They will keep doing what they do, go to work, go to school, all that," he said, "but some of them will hide."
 

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