A Washington County That Went for Trump is Shaken as Immigrant Neighbors Start Disappearing

A Washington County That Went for Trump is Shaken as Immigrant Neighbors Start Disappearing

Nina Shapiro, Seattle Times, Nov. 9, 2017 - "Named after a character in a cowboy book, Police Chief Flint Wright describes himself as pretty conservative.

A portrait of Ronald Reagan hangs in his office, along with photos of John Wayne, and his father and grandfather on horses — capturing the rural lifestyle of Pacific County, which curves around Willapa Bay in the state’s southwest corner.

He doesn’t talk about it much, but he voted for Donald Trump, helping Pacific County go with the Republican presidential candidate for the first time in decades. Among other things, he liked Trump’s promise to secure the borders. Economic migrants are not a problem in his mind — he’s seen how hard they work — but he wondered, “who’s coming with them?” Terrorists, he feared.

Then came the July arrest of Mario Rodriguez by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I was kind of in shock, to be blunt with you,” Wright said.

Rodriguez, whose visa had expired, had lived in the area for more than a dozen years. He had worked in bilingual education and periodically tipped police to trouble spots.

“He was real pro-law enforcement,” the police chief said. “Shoot, anybody would like to have him as a neighbor.”

Trump, on the campaign, had talked about kicking out Mexican “drug dealers, criminals, rapists.” And that’s the kind of immigration crackdown a lot of people here were expecting.

“Yeah, we don’t want that element,” Wright said. But Rodriguez? The police chief couldn’t believe sending him back to Mexico would do anybody any good.

That kind of shock is reverberating throughout the county as Trump’s toughened immigration policy hits home. ICE has arrested at least 28 people in the county this year, according to numbers provided to the Sheriff’s Office.

While that’s just a small share of the roughly 3,100 ICE arrests overseen by its regional office in Seattle — which covers Washington, Oregon and Alaska — it represents a pronounced upward trajectory. Last year, ICE reported eight Pacific County arrests to the sheriff and for a long stretch of years before that, zero.

In a county of small, close-knit communities — Long Beach, population 1,400, is one of the largest — it’s noticed when someone goes missing. The number is magnified by those who have moved, gone into hiding or followed family after a deportation. People have lost neighbors, schools have lost students and businesses have lost employees."