With the news that Donald J. Trump is President-elect of the United States, many are already wondering whether his campaign talking points will turn into policies. Trump was notably outspoken about immigration policy on the campaign trail. He indicated that under his presidency that anyone entering the U.S. illegally would be deported, that he would deport Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Lubbock Immigration attorney Paola Ledesma said that as soon as the electoral college votes appeared to be in Trump’s favor, she began getting calls from clients. By Wednesday morning, she received calls and emails from current, former, and prospective clients, all wanting to know how they should prepare for a Trump presidency.
“Especially from permanent residents and DACA holders,” Ledesma explained Wednesday. “They are wondering what’s going to happen to them–the phone has been ringing all day today, and that means people are anxious, they are nervous, they want to know what’s going to happen in regards to their immigration status. And the thing is, we still don’t know,” Ledesma said.
Because no laws have been changed yet, and it’s unclear which of Trump’s proposed policies will be enacted. Ledesma said that she is urging her clients not to panic.
“I’ve been advising people just keep calm, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t get into any criminal trouble,” she said. “From now until January we won’t know, anything.”
“It’s not that people are going to suddenly lose their legal status or be deported, there are processes in place to get rid of legal permanent residency, or any status you might have,” Ledesma explained.
Ledesma immigrated to the U.S., so she is no stranger to the immigration process and how it’s changed over the years. She’s gained citizenship now, but she feels the immigration system is broken.
“We do need immigration reform and it’s gonna come either for good or for bad, but there’s something that need to be done and I think it’s going to be done this term,” Ledesma said. She explained that many of her clients want to obtain citizenship and do so legally, but they lack structured pathways or mechanisms to become citizens.
She said that if Trump takes on immigration reform during his presidency, she hopes that he prioritizes both border security as well as treating immigrants with dignity and keeping families together.
“Let’s just do it in a practical manner that is not going to cost us a lot of money and that is not going to be inhumane for people,” she said.
For Texas Tech Law student Miriam Aguayo, Trump’s stances and comments are hard to move past.
When Aguayo was six, she and her family moved to the United States from Mexico. She explained that she and her family came in as derivatives of her mother’s application, they were able to attain residency with a green card. Then in 2013, she and most of her family applied for and obtained U.S. citizenship. Aguayo said since Trump was announced presidential-elect, she’s spent a lot of time wondering how others who try to become citizens will fair.
“Before when [Trump] talked about what he would do with immigration, how he would get rid of Deferred Action, and build a wall and do the other things to protect our borders, that really brought me back to faces of people I know who would be affected by these laws if they were to be implemented like he said,” Aguayo said. “So for me it was more personal, he spoke of an entire group of people who I know very well and I love very much, I feel like I’ve carried that.”
She also worries about how Latinos will be treated in a Trump presidency.
“From the beginning since his announcement to become president, he made some statements toward the the Hispanic race, that we were rapists and criminals, and from then on I guess I was just scared or not sure how he would react or act in this position,” she said.
During the 2015 announcement of his presidential bid, Donald Trump said:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
For all those reasons, Aguayo said, acknowledging the reality of a Trump presidency brought her to tears.
“I think a lot of people are afraid, I was too. And I’m trying to cope with the decision and how we’re going to move forward, I think we’re beginning to realize it’s not the end,” she said. “And we’re going to continue the work we’ve been doing for so long.”
She said she’s ready to work with Trump to help improve the lives of people who move to the United States. For Aguayo, that means working as an immigration attorney when she graduates.
“It’s very true that kids are going to school now not knowing what’s going to happen to them and their families, so I think we remain hopeful and we help in any way that we can, and we continue to raise our voices,” Aguayo said.