OGDEN — Since being elected, Donald Trump has softened his early campaign statements about mass deportations, but he still says between two and three million undocumented immigrants could be ousted from the United States during his term.
Many immigrants and their families, particularly those in Latino communities, have expressed fear over what Trump’s immigration rhetoric and proposals could mean for them. But on the other side of those fears, there are citizens hopeful a Trump administration will be the cure to some of America’s woes.
On his website, Trump has a 10-point plan to establish new immigration controls he says will “prioritize the jobs, wages and security of the American people.”
The plan includes deportations, ending sanctuary cities, eliminating certain amnesty policies, suspending visas in certain areas, and — the hallmark of Trump’s immigration policy — building an impenetrable wall along the nation’s southern border.
But without many specifics, it’s hard to know exactly what the impact of Trump’s election will be for Utah families and the local economy.
It’s also hard to know exactly how many unauthorized immigrants live in Utah. U.S. Census data from 2015 said there were fewer than 150,000 foreign-born non-citizens in the state.
But that number lumps undocumented immigrants with documented ones — exchange students, those here on work visas and those with permanent residency. A Pew Research study from 2014 estimated that Utah has about 100,000 people who came to the country illegally.
Utah is one of the few states to offer driving privilege cards to people who can’t prove they are U.S. citizens. The state said 33,558 of these cards were issued in 2016, with 3,150 of them in Weber County, 1,293 in Davis, 396 in Box Elder and none in Morgan County.
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While protecting students who came to the country illegally as children, President Barack Obama also ramped up deportations of undocumented people who have been convicted of crimes, expelling 2.5 million people in eight years, more than any other president.
But Trump plans to reinstate workplace raids and will pressure local law enforcement agencies to assist in deporting undocumented people, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Although the Obama administration has focused on undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes, Trump will “widen that net to include migrants who have been charged but not convicted, suspected gang members and drug dealers, and people charged with such immigration violations as illegal reentry and overstaying visas, as well as lower-level misdemeanors,” the Times reported based on interviews with anonymous transition team members.
A UtahPolicy poll of 614 adults by Dan Jones and Associates in December reported that 75 percent of Utahns said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support Trump’s “plan to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records.” Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they oppose the plan.
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Ogden business owner David Edgell says America is a nation of immigrants, which “makes us rich in thought and culture,” but undocumented immigrants have “become our financial burden,” and he’s wary of those “who would bring us poison, violence and crime.”
Although he doesn’t support a particular political party or candidate, Edgell said in a statement to the Standard-Examiner that he believes in limited and checked government. But he says one of the government’s fundamental responsibilities is to “maintain defined, controlled and secure borders.”
Edgell said Trump’s immigration stance is a welcome contrast to that of Obama.
“We need to control every inch of our southern and northern borders,” Edgell said. “We need to control our ports and our airports. And after that, we need electronic services made available to business to be able to vet those that may have figured a way around those physical barriers.”
Edgell said implementing Trump’s proposed wall and deportations will be a difficult process but a necessary one.
“Real people and real families will be impacted by anything that is done,” he said. “That will be tragic for some and a relief for others. It will be difficult to sort through.”
Weber County Republican Party chair Lynda Pipkin said she likes Trump’s idea of tightening border security but thinks building a wall across the entire southern border might be too large a project to accomplish.
“I know of a lot of people who really like the idea of a wall,” she said. “But it’s a huge task, and I think people will always find ways to get over it, underneath it or through it.”
Pipkin thinks mass deportations are also somewhat unrealistic but favors eliminating incentives for undocumented immigrants. She cited the ability for undocumented immigrants to receive free emergency medical care as an example.
In his 10-point plan, Trump “promises to turn off the jobs and benefits magnet,” saying many immigrants come to the U.S. illegally to find jobs, but the plan doesn’t offer specifics on how this would be accomplished.
Standard-Examiner reporter Leia Larsen contributed to this report.
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