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‘There’s a lot of uncertainty,’ Oklahomans fear effects of Trump’s executive orders on immigration

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OKLAHOMA CITY - President Donald Trump's newly inked policies on immigration are causing uncertainty and unease in the state's Latino immigrant community.

"There's a lot of repercussions not just within the immediate family but across the city and the nation," said Jose Cruz, a legal citizen who immigrated from Mexico before he was 1-year-old. "There's been uncertainty from day one [of the Trump administration]. It makes it difficult for the community. A lot of them are working, have kids, have families."

The president signed a pair of executive orders Wednesday, laying the groundwork for building a wall along the Mexican border, beefing up immigration forces and ordering an increase in deportations of illegal immigrants.

"From here on out, I'm asking all of you to enforce the laws of the United States of America," Trump said, speaking at the Department of Homeland Security. "They will be enforced strongly. I just signed two executive orders that will save thousands of lives, millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars."

Trump also intends to strip federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, which protect undocumented immigrants.

Some activist groups include Oklahoma City - which received about $73 million in federal funding last year-- on the list of 'de facto' sanctuary cities, claiming they shield the immigrants even if they don't have a written policy.

"That's a matter of just simple opinion, and most of that opinion is not based on fact," said Oklahoma City Police Department Capt. Paco Balderrama. "We don't consider ourselves a sanctuary city, because we enforce the existing laws."

OCPD will always help federal officials enforce immigration policy when asked, Balderrama said, and the department makes sure it notifies the appropriate authorities when it arrests someone who happens to be illegal.

But, the department is never specifically seeking out illegal immigrants, he said.

"Obviously, our primary function isn't immigration and no police officer in our department has arrest powers when it comes to immigration issues," he said.

The department has been stepping up its community outreach, hosting town hall meetings during which immigrants have voiced concerns they may be deported.

It's essential to build relationships with immigrants - legal and illegal - Balderrama said, to ensure a safer city.

"We want people to call the police," he said. "And, if there's a certain percentage of our population that thinks we're going to go door-to-door arresting people on immigration issues, then they're not going to call the police."

Latinos like Cruz can't help but feel like they're receiving mixed messages from different areas of government.

He points to a town hall meeting earlier this month in which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told an undocumented Oklahoman he did not want to deport her, after she praised President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

"It's really hard when you're getting both ends of that spectrum," Cruz said. "It's hard to know what's going to happen. We're all for getting rid of the convicted felons, the people who aren't very good to society. A lot of these DACA recipients are kids who have passed background tests and have proven they have either finished school or are working on their education. These are all working, healthy kids who have been educated by our system, and they were brought here by their parents, so this wasn't really their choice."