Just days into his presidency, Donald Trump wasted no time in signing two executive orders to reshape immigration policies. Combined with other actions, it was akin to taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.
The orders call for construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing the number of border patrol agents and immigration enforcement personnel to speed up deportations. Trump also revived a program called Secure Communities in which federal officials use digital fingerprints shared by local law enforcement agencies to find and deport immigrants who commit crimes.
The orders also cut off grant funding for sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that do not fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement efforts.
It is all aimed at finding, detaining and ultimately deporting undocumented immigrants, a majority of whom are contributing members of society, especially in Kern County's multi-billion dollar agriculture industry.
People are genuinely fearful.
"We need to be much more prepared for what's coming up ahead," said Win Eaton, a local immigration attorney.
That's why a dozen local lawyers have been hosting town hall-type meetings around Kern County letting all types of immigrants know what their rights are.
Headed by H.A. Sala, the Immigration Justice Collaborative brings together lawyers with expertise in fields that directly or indirectly impact immigrants generally, though the focus is largely on the undocumented.
Recent meetings held in Delano and Lamont brought out large crowds. You could sense the feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and fear of what may lie ahead for immigrants under a Trump White House and Republican-controlled Congress.
Are police officers and sheriff's deputies going to start acting as federal immigration agents and question people about their immigration status? Can a person be arrested for not answering? What can a person do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raid a workplace?
These and a ton of other questions are on the minds of parents, workers and students who continue to live in the shadows because Congress continually fails to act on comprehensive immigration reform.
Anticipating the political and social climate could get bad for immigrants under Trump, the Arvin City Council recently debated becoming a sanctuary city. While such a policy is largely symbolic, sanctuary cities — there are about 40 in California — usually offer political support and practical protections for undocumented immigrants. Such a policy cannot supersede federal law.
But Arvin City Attorney Shannon Chaffin talked the council out of adopting such a policy by citing Trump's threat to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. According to Chaffin, the federal government has the legal authority to do so.
That was apparently enough to spook the City Council and it decided not to go the sanctuary route. Instead, the council instructed city staff to draft a resolution stating that it welcomes all immigrants.
"I wanted to send a message to the community to ease any fear in this hostile political environment," said Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola, who came up with the idea. "We will protect all of our law-abiding citizens regardless of immigration status."
The Arvin resolution will adopt the Major Cities Chiefs Association immigration policy of 2013. MCCA is an organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada.
The policy is also consistent with the California Police Chiefs Association talking points on immigration. It calls for no intervention by local law enforcement agencies in enforcing immigration laws. Doing so undermines the trust and cooperation between police and immigrant communities. Police would focus on arresting anyone who commits a crime, regardless of his or her citizenship status.
On a related note, Trump tried to tie undocumented immigrants to voter fraud. Still upset that he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes, Trump repeated a lie to congressional leaders last week that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for massive voter fraud.
Trump has never offered proof of his ridiculous claim, but you know what they say about repeating a lie often enough: People will start believing it.
Kern County elections chief Karen Rhea, along with others statewide, have debunked Trump's claim. Rhea has said her office has no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Kern County during the 2016 presidential election. Even some in his own party aren't buying what Trump is peddling.
"It is the most inappropriate thing for the president to say without proof," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I would urge the president to knock it off."
If there's any good news, it's that Trump appears to be walking back his promise to immediately end President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order. This program gives temporary deportation relief for young people and allows them to work with a valid Social Security number.
But I'd be skeptical about Trump's motivation for wanting to work something out for DACA kids. Most likely, he wants to use this as leverage against Democratic lawmakers to push through yet more draconian measures against other undocumented immigrants.
Divide and conquer? Nah, can't happen. I'm just being paranoid.
Contributing columnist Jose Gaspar is a news anchor for KKEY, Telemundo Bakersfield. Email him at email@example.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.