When ICE Comes
By Trudy Wischemann
There is a beautiful, tall row of corn growing in the back yard of the house next door to mine where once there was a dense hedge of pyracantha, commonly known as the Firethorn bush. Although the cedar waxwings undoubtedly miss the red berries in winter on both sides of their north-south migration, my neighbors will be eating from their little piece of land this year, something I admire.
Changes in vegetation are only one of the differences in my neighborhood since I first moved here. Once there were workers and managers at Lindsay Olive, an ag chemist, the owner of the Chevron station, and a farm labor contractor whose crews served the nearby Sunkist packinghouse. Now I don’t know where anyone works or where they’re from, a reflection of my reclusive nature and their commute schedules. Our language differences add a small complication to the non-local nature of our lives.
I imagine that’s not too different from many neighborhoods in our small towns now. I don’t know the citizenship status of my neighbors, and I certainly wouldn’t ask, out of politeness. They’re my neighbors, and I keep looking for ways to act accordingly despite my ignorance of their lives. But since the March 13 meeting of the Lindsay City Council, when the Council was approached by activated citizens seeking official support for DACA students (which the Council gave,) I have been wondering what I would do if ICE showed up at my neighbors’ doors.
In Germany during WWII, when their government’s agents known as Brown Shirts came to take away Jewish neighbors, the non-Jewish neighbors had two responses. One was to hide behind the curtains and watch, assuming the government knew what it was doing or remaining silent, simply too afraid to make a peep. The other, much riskier, was to take their Jewish neighbors into their homes and hide them. With 20/20 hindsight, we have become judgmental about the curtain-watchers, but are blind to the fact that here in good old America there are no stories about families taking in their Japanese neighbors when they were being rounded up by our government officials and taken away to internment camps.
Mark Smith, pastor of both the Exeter and Lindsay Methodist Churches, was at the March 13 Lindsay City Council meeting, where we met organizers from CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights (Los Angeles.) CHIRLA has a new office in Porterville, and the organizers were eager to find ways of serving the community.
Wanting to know what we can do to help, we met with them and decided to sponsor one of their workshops on immigrants’ rights. This workshop will be held at Lindsay United Methodist Church’s Maxwell Hall on Sunday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m. It will be conducted primarily in Spanish to serve those residents, documented and undocumented, who could benefit from knowing what to do if and when ICE comes to their door. We hope to begin the process of learning what the rest of us might do as well. Please join us if you can, and watch this column for further developments.
Trudy Wischemann is co-editor of the forthcoming volume A Little Piece of Land: Writings on Agriculture and the Common Good in California. You can send her your thoughts on ICE incursions c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.