Woodburn, Oregon is quickly turning into a ghost town thanks to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on undocumented immigrants, according to The Oregonian.
“I depend on people, whether they are legal or illegal,” said Cesar Mora, the owner of Zapateria El Jalicience, a clothing store downtown. His shop sells boots and jeans as well as cowboy hats for special events. He has some made of crocodile and eel that haven’t been touched.
He explained that men used to come in every Saturday for something to wear to weekend parties, but since President Donald Trump’s executive order things have changed. ICE detained 11 men one day at a local gas station and residents are now too afraid of leaving their homes to go to work. Children are even afraid to go to school.
Many cities haven’t been impacted by the sudden uptick in deportations, but Latinos dominate Woodburn. More than a quarter of the city’s residents are undocumented and half of them speak a little English. Still, the community has come together to build a better town. The local high school was once listed as the worst in the state when it came to graduation rates but in a single generation, they turned it around.
The Department of Homeland Security tried to downplay the uptick in deportations.
“ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years,” the agency claimed.
Trump tried to say that the deportations were only of gang members and drug dealers. Videos online of fathers and brothers being taken into custody by ICE tell a different story, however. Many are being deported who were convicted of minor crimes many years ago but served their time and moved forward.
Houston doctors are being faced with deportation as well, though their country of origin was India. Trump supporters aren’t immune either. One Trump supporter that lost her husband to deportation, said that she never expected that her husband would be one of the ones that would be taken.
Today, the town is represented by a Latino state legislator, school board and city council members. Others joined the police force or were hired on as teachers or school principals. Many filed citizenship paperwork and others obtained green cards but some continued to work and pay taxes without gaining legal status.
The Oregonian described the town as the perfect example of the American dream. Parents could work in farm fields for minuscule salaries but their children had an opportunity to graduate from high school and go on to college in the United States.
It all came crashing down after the November election. Suddenly, people who had been in the town for three or four decades were afraid to leave their homes for fear ICE was waiting for them. Teenagers now fear they might end up becoming the legal guardians for their younger siblings after their parents are taken.
There are reports that Sunday pews have gone from filled to vacant as people are scared to even attend mass.
School superintendent Chuck Ransom said that everyone is being impacted.
“Everybody knows somebody or is related to somebody for whom that situation is real. Nobody can escape,” he said.