Immigration Raids Are Bad for Legal Americans [Small-Town Pennsylvania Edition]

"My corner of Pennsylvania was thriving again-until immigration agents began carting people away..."


Dickinson College professor (and occasional Reason contributor) Crispin Sartwell has a stunning piece in the Wall Street Journal about the ways in which anti-immmigration actions are killing small-town America in the name of preserving, what, the rule of law? Ethnic solidarity? An America that never existed?

The sad truth is, at least in many parts of the old industrial and agricultural East, immigrants are rehabbing places that native-born Americans deserted decades ago. Whether legal or not, these transplants don't pose any sort of public menace, so clearly law enforcement should have better things to do.

Writing from York Springs, Pennsylvania (official population: 800 and 46 percent Hispanic), Sartwell notes:

York Springs in recent years has developed a vibrant, intersectional culture, insofar as that's possible in such a sparsely populated place. Almost anyone might hire Renta Fiestas for a party. There was, until recently, even street life of sorts popping up: a Mexican food truck, children playing fútbol, the occasional interethnic teen couple holding hands at Griest Park…

There were at least 15 actions in York Springs during February and March, with many more since, including street arrests and traffic stops that have resulted in detentions. People are held at the prison in the city of York, 25 miles down the road, and the phrase "they took her to York" has become the expression for someone who's been taken into the immigration system….

York Springs is in Adams County, where apple-growing, picking, and processing dominates the local economy so much that a nearby high school's teams are called "The Canners." The workers who serve this economy are overwhelmingly Hispanic but this is Trump Country, with the current president carrying 66 percent of the vote. And yet, observes Sartwell,

The local growers, many of whom have been operating the family orchards for generations, worry they won't have enough manpower this fall to harvest the crop.

Sure, a lot of the white folk out here voted for Mr. Trump. Even then, many of them had reservations specifically about his immigration stance. I heard them expressed by Trump supporters in line to vote at the Latimore Township building. Now as we spiral into a local depression that is personal, cultural and economic, a lot of them are going to regret voting for him anyway.

Read the whole piece—about a place that conjures "Oaxaca in a Wyeth painting"—here.

Nationally, about one-quarter of farm workers (including apple pickers) are undcomented, and states from Georgia to Washington have struggled to bring in crops when immigration laws were strictly enforced. Perhaps the folks in York Springs and elsewhere will gain a deeper appreciation of how people who come here to work enrich us all, whether or not they speak the language or have the proper papers.

And the rest of us? We need to figure out what sorts of arguments might actually sway people who seem dedicated to the proposition that immigration is bad for America, despite all the evidence that it's about the only thing that keeps us going.