Border Patrol enforcement in the San Joaquín Valley can provide nothing but a Pyrrhic victory for residents who support such action: Sure, you can cleanse the region of undocumented residents, but in the end the area’s economy and vibrancy will be destroyed.
That couldn’t have been made much clearer last Tuesday when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at the Delano home of Santo Hilario García, 35, and his wife, Marcelina García Profecto, 33.
The ICE agents showed up to arrest a “previously removed Mexican citizen.” When a man matching their target’s description came out out of the residence and drove away, the agents pulled the couple’s SUV over. The male driver, said ICE, sped away when the agents got out of their vehicle.
The driver went into a dirt shoulder and lost control of the SUV, which flipped. The couple, who leave behind six children ages 8 to 18, was killed.
ICE officials said the man was not the one who was targeted, but that he had been deported to México several times and had a previous DUI conviction. His wife had no prior encounters with immigration officials.
You can blame García for the death, but it turned out he was not the man the ICE agents were looking for. His guilt was appearing similar to the wanted individual.
“When they learned they were ICE agents, because of their legal status, they became very scared and as a result they took off and eventually had a crash here on Cecil Avenue,” said United Farm Workers president Arturo S. Rodríguez.
“Who knows if this accident could’ve been prevented if these ICE agents weren’t so aggressive with this family.”
The UFW, in February, reported fear among farmworkers to leave their homes for work because they were afraid of getting arrested and deported.
That should be a great cause of concern for a Latino population that makes up about half of the residents in the region stretching from Kern to Stanislaus counties.
The undocumented population has already been spooked by reports of ICE investigations at local packing houses that left the owners trying to fill jobs when some of their workers did not return.
By now, the story about ICE agents stopping a group of farmworkers on their way to work and detaining almost all of them has spread like wildfire. That has left farmworkers leery about risking a trip to work.
Restaurants and other businesses that cater to packing house workers in one community have experienced a drop in business, according to a city official.
We believe immigration laws should be enforced, and that federal agents should go after those who have committed major crimes. But when they start going after otherwise law-abiding residents, that is going too far.
This nation needs to figure out a system that helps Dreamers, their families, their communities and their employers without putting the immigrant community in constant fear.
Of course, the blame goes to President Donald J. Trump and Congress for not passing sensible immigration reform.