Montenegro, executive director of El Centro Hispano in Durham, said Trump sent a dangerous message to Latinos with the order for construction of a wall along the Mexican border Wednesday.
“(We) are told, ‘You are not a part of this community and we don’t want you,’” she said. “... It inhibits the idea that Americans are diverse, and that we are all a part of this country.”
After signing the orders, Trump said in a speech the border wall will make both Mexico and the United States more secure, ending the “crisis on our southern border.”
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” he said. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders.”
But Montenegro said Trump hasn’t considered the potential impact on Hispanics, many of whom are in the U.S. legally.
“It puts our communities at risk of being more vulnerable, and for there to be instances of hate crimes because of this rhetoric and the institutionalization of discrimination,” she said.
The executive order also expedites detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants and hires additional federal deportation agents.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Mexico would pay for the wall, but Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto refuted this and cancelled a scheduled visit.
Advocates for stricter immigration laws, like Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, lauded the action by Trump.
“By taking meaningful steps to regain border security and enhance interior immigration enforcement, the administration is underscoring the primacy of the national interest,” Stein said in a statement.
But the orders threaten the due process of undocumented immigrants, said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, in an email.
“We will continue to defend the rights of immigrants, and we are prepared to mount legal challenges to unlawful and abusive tactics,” she said.
The orders suspend federal grants going to sanctuary cities, which are jurisdictions with policies designed to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“Today’s action fulfills a key promise he made to American families ... that their government will protect them, not deportable criminal aliens,” Stein said.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro have some sanctuary city policies, which prohibit police requests for proof of citizenship.
Removing funding from sanctuary jurisdictions would be unprecedented, said Catherine Kim, a UNC law professor specializing in immigration.
“I just don’t see how the president can unilaterally decide to cut off funding like that,” she said.
According to N.C. Justice Center, removing protections would damage Latinos’ trust in police.
“North Carolina has seen this picture before, and it ends in racial profiling and violation of civil rights,” their statement said.
Kim said the executive actions are disheartening.
“I think the feeling that it’s a slap in the face is widespread,” she said. “Not just in immigrant communities, not just in Latino communities, but among all Americans who pride themselves as being a nation of immigrants.”
Montenegro said she expected Trump to take action to fulfill his campaign promises during the first 100 days, but she was still surprised that the order came so soon.
El Centro Hispano has programs in place to help undocumented immigrants in the Triangle, she said. Over 120,000 undocumented immigrants in the state are eligible to apply for citizenship, Montenegro said — but she worries Trump’s tactics will scare people away.
“There may be a point when people will be afraid to leave their homes to come to community meetings, will be afraid to go to their children’s schools,” she said.
Montenegro said she expects anti-immigrant legislation from Congress, modeled after policies in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, will follow the executive order.
“We know what is coming,” she said. “We’re trying to prepare our communities as best as possible.”