LEESBURG – Imelda, a Groveland businesswoman originally from Mexico, has lived in the United States for more than 40 years.

Her children were born and raised in this country and have all been educated. They now have jobs and children of their own.

Imelda is a legal immigrant and has papers to prove it, so really, she doesn’t have to be afraid of President Trump’s executive order this week to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to speed the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Yet she is.

“I’ve been here almost all my life, but you don’t know what they can do. What if they say there is something wrong with my papers?” said Imelda.

Juana, a Leesburg resident who works at a local Mexican restaurant, said she has similar fears.

“We’re all scared. We’re scared for ourselves, our friends, our families, the kids and everything. We’ll have to see what happens, but look at what the president has done in his first months, in just a few days. Can you imagine?” Juana said.

As for the wall, Imelda said, “It’s not right” for many reasons.

“It’s a waste of money – money that could be used on other things. And it’s not going to keep as many people out as they think it will. Plus, they are going to take one of the countries the United States is most united with and separate them further apart,” she added.

Alejandro, another Groveland resident, believes Trump’s wall is ‘all for show’ because there are so many ways for people to come from Mexico to the United States, including through the desert, trenches, unguarded areas of the wall, airplanes and other countries.

“I think the president knows that the wall is not going to work, because if someone wants to come to the United States, they’ll find a way. No wall is going to stop them. This is something the president is doing for the people who voted for him,” said Alejandro.

One of those people is Walter Price, the chairman of the Republican Party of Lake County.

Price said he is impressed with Trump’s swift actions, including ordering that the wall be built.

“I’m glad he’s building the wall like he promised because it will keep illegal immigrants at bay. So will deporting them. So many of them really are drug dealers, criminals and anything else, so if we can stop that, it’s a good thing,” Price said. “I’m glad to see him working at such a breakneck pace to get these things done.”

Price said he has nothing against legal immigration and people going through the process of citizenship when it’s done properly.

“If people don’t go through the proper channels, it’s a problem because these people are working here, taking jobs from Americans who don’t have jobs. They are not paying income taxes, Social Security and Medicare but getting driver’s licenses, housing subsidies, food stamps and healthcare,” Price said.

Ricardo, a Lake County man, said if not paying taxes is a problem, then individual states should find a way of imposing taxes on some of the things they have to buy, like food and drink, in lieu of breaking families up.

He said it’s a tough situation because if parents are illegal and deported, then many young children who were born in the U.S. will either be forced to go with them and face leaving all they know or stay here with legal family members or strangers in foster care, an expense for the U.S. and taxpayers anyway.

Either way, he said it's the children who will be paying the price.

Another man, who wished not to be identified at all, said the illegals working in the U.S. do not care about taking jobs from others. He said most of them are doing jobs many American’s don’t want and for much less pay.

“They are here trying to better their lives and better the lives of their children,” he said.

Bridgette Bennett, an immigration law attorney who owns Bennett Law Center in Groveland, said the deportation issue is much more serious than whether Trump’s border wall is ever built.

She said many of her clients are fearful because the Trump deportation order is broad and unclear in the sense that any undocumented immigrants, if ever arrested for any crime, can be deported, whether or not they were ever convicted.

She said if the government is going to use arrest records, they should first go after those convicted of violent or serious crimes. 

"That’s concerning, because this, to me, signals mass deportation," Bennett said. “As far as Mexicans and people in this area (Groveland), I’d say the majority of my clients have been arrested at least once for driving without a license, which puts them in danger of being deported. Theoretically, these people could be arrested driving to or from work, while taking their children to school or going to the store, and never come home to their families." 

Bennett also said there is a chance that Trump could go after the estimated 840,000 people who, as children, were brought to the U.S. and have remained here, hold careers and have raised families here, but never immigrated.

Her advice is for people to start the immigration process while they still can.

Bennett has also been working on creating guardianship documents for the children of clients facing deportation.

“There is no guidance as far as how agencies should interpret these new laws, no prioritization and a lot of uncertainty. So basically, the immigration world is in total chaos right now,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out how to manage my practice going forward, given these changes, the panic and the fear my clients are experiencing.”

She said during the Trump campaign, she took more than 400 new clients, a lot for her small firm, and more are contacting her every day.

She said even since yesterday, when Trump announced his new plans, she’s gotten a lot of messages from people asking how they are going to be affected.

She said it also doesn't help that the chief border patrol officer and all the senior management team members with the State Department resigned or were fired Wednesday night.

“I only do immigration law, so this has pretty much dominated my whole life. But I’m taking it one day at a time. I know I can’t help everyone, but I’m going to try my best. Emotionally, I struggle with when I have to tell people 'I can’t help you,' and my fear is that I’m going to have to say that a lot more,” Bennett said.