Thousands of undocumented immigrants and even U.S. citizens of Latin descent are living in fear as the threat of Immigration and Custom Enforcement raids echo around the nation, and Cache Valley is no exception.
“The community is scared,” Victoria Davila, a Cache Valley immigrant activist, said.
Some posts on Facebook among the valley Latinx community say recent events and rumors have many community members reliving the fear after the 2006 ICE raid at the Swift & Company meat-packing plant in Hyrum.
“Everytime you mention ICE or the ICE white trucks or people being picked up, you bring back that trauma,” The Family Place Community Outreach Coordinator Lizette Villegas said.
Utah State University students have also been affected with doubt and questions about recent reports revealing the university’s involvement with Customs and Border Patrol.
Fear on campus
According to federal spending databases, CBP paid the USU Research Foundation $4.1 million for research and engineering services. This revelation had some parents and students questioning if the university was giving CBP or ICE their information.
A USU student living in Cache Valley without U.S. citizenship, a "Dreamer," said her friends and she discussed the situation. The student agreed to speak with The Herald Journal on the condition that her real name not be used.
“I had some of them even, like, tell me that their parents don’t want them to go to Utah State just because they don’t want them to be questioned about their status even though they are legal residents,” she said.
The student said the university’s outreach programs and the recent establishment of the Latinx Cultural Center had helped Latinx students feel comfortable, but the worry of their information possibly making it to the hands of ICE and CBP has made students more wary of the information shared with the university.
“The university should be a learning space for us,” she said. “It makes us be more cautious of what we share with people and what we share with the university.”
In an email to The Herald Journal, USU Spokesman Tim Vitale stated the university was not sharing students’ information with CBP. He wrote that the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act protects their information.
FERPA is a federal law that safeguards the privacy of students' education records, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
USU student Eri Ethington said when the community found out USU had received those funds, traumatic events from the raid in Hyrum resurfaced.
“I’m a nontraditional student, so I tend to take a little bit of the longer perspective on things, but I can’t help but, you know, think about how the community in Cache is still healing from that ICE raid that happened about 10 years ago,” Ethington said.
Rumors of ICE presence in Cache Valley
Rumors about the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at local stores have caused some panic among the Latinx community in the valley, while local activists attempt to dispel the rumors and some peace of mind to the community.
“With the ICE rumors, it’s kind of mixed,” Villegas said. “Some are alarms that some people intentionally make to make people in fear and some genuinely are, ‘Hey, we did hear this.’”
A Facebook post in June warning community members of an incident at WalMart involving ICE officers caused many in the community to worry. The incident was later proven to be a false alarm.
Other false reports of ICE raiding local workplaces and stores have caused many families to refuse to leave their homes, but Davila suggested these rumors are being spread to frighten the Latinx community.
The rumors and fear are also affecting the Cache Valley refugee community, people who have permanent or temporary legal status.
“It’s not just affecting the Hispanic community,” Davila said. “I’ve noticed some of our refugees are in the same place.”
Cache Valley residents might spot ICE vehicles in the valley once a week due to a 2017 agreement the Cache County Jail has with ICE to hold undocumented immigrants held during the deportation process.
Villegas said she tries to remind the community that ICE might be around town once a week and they might encounter them.
“They (ICE agents) will be around,” Villegas said. “They have to go out and eat. They have to maybe, you know, run to WalMart, even have to pump gas. You know, they are regular people, they have to be around town and they have the contract.”
Living in fear
The rumors and threats have caused many in the community to retreat back into their homes and refuse to leave even to go to the grocery store or to work.
Villegas said although the threat of ICE coming to the valley is very real, she encourages the Latinx community to not be afraid to go out.
“It is possible for them to come,” Villegas said. “I do say don’t be scared to go out to the store, go out to church because there have been incidents that people just completely lock down.”
Some community members have rallied around these families and have offered to go grocery shopping for them and bring food and supplies, according to Davila, but with the school year approaching, many parents are afraid to send their children to school.
“They know that school is coming up,” Davila said. “They’re wondering should they even send their kids to school.”
Although a Facebook post stated parents were contacting the school districts, Davila said it was unlikely they did since many of these families are even afraid to report a crime.
“A lot of the people that are asking these questions, are scared to go ask them directly to the police station, school districts, hospital, everywhere,” Davila said. “They’re even scared of coming out and saying, ‘hey somebody hurt me.’”
A lack of a local news outlet to provide the Spanish speaking community accurate information and their right, makes these rumors possible and fuel the fear, according to Davila.
“That’s a big problem in a community where we have so many Hispanic people, is that they don’t have a newspaper or anything that can help them know what’s going on in the community,” Davila said.
The Facebook group page, La Pulguita de Logan, was set up by Villegas in coordination with the Family Place for the Latinx community to have a safe place to ask questions and support each other.
To help reduce the possibility of rumors, Davila said local activists are asking members of the community to record any incident that occurs regarding ICE officials via photo or video.
Local activists hope to work with the city of Logan to help educate and inform the Latinx community about what is going on in the city, according to Davila. She said she hopes a partnership with the city will also let the community as a whole, learn from each other.
"With love and compassion, we can understand our neighbor," Villegas said. "What they might be going through."