Park City: Immigration Reform

Park City Stands with its immigrant community.

By Vanessa Conabee

President Trump’s promise to crack down on immigration fueled fear in Park City, where Hispanic and Latino residents make up nearly 12 percent of Summit County—a number that has grown steadily since immigrants arrived to provide labor for the resort and construction boom of the 1990s. After executive orders increased the power of federal agents in January, the advocacy group Park City Unidos convened a town hall meeting. Max Ventura, Latino outreach coordinator for The Christian Center, helped create Park City Unidos a year ago to connect area Latino and Hispanic outreach organizers.

“I’m pretty frustrated,” Ventura said. “We can hold events and share information, but there’s nothing we can do against executive orders. That’s all. Hopefully, something will change.”

A second forum was held in late February after four people were apprehended on felony charges as part of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation earlier that week. The ICE arrest spread panic; some Latino parents feared sending their children to school. Although local authorities have little control over what is being done nationally, school board President Phil Kaplan told the Park Record, “Schools should be a safe place for all children.”  The operation came on the heels of an executive order signed February 21, essentially targeting undocumented immigrants for deportation, without emphasizing criminal status. A crowd of nearly 350 gathered at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to hear from panelists including Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez, Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter, an official from the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City and a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We are here tonight to try to learn more about what happened and what may happen in the future—to increase certainty and to decrease fear,” explained Beth Armstrong, executive director of the People’s Health Clinic.

“We want to know how we, as a community, can best help and support those who live among us—our friends and neighbors who work extremely hard to ensure that we have better living, entertainment and recreational experiences in Park City—if there are broader immigration enforcement actions.”

Chief Carpenter and Sheriff Martinez used the meeting to dispel fears that local agencies would form partnerships with ICE, explaining that local law enforcement will continue its focus on violent or serious crimes, including domestic violence and drug trafficking, or people who are convicted felons. Sheriff Martinez said the Sheriff’s office will not deputize officers to carry out immigration enforcement as allowed in the Immigration and Nationality Act, nor investigate immigration status as part of day-to-day law enforcement. Mayor Jack Thomas reiterated that Park City is “welcoming and compassionate” to the Latino community, and will not make an extra effort to seek out those who are undocumented, citing that the city doesn’t have the time or resources for such checks.

While the outpouring of community support and statements from law enforcement officials provided some relief, the issue of immigration remains a divisive issue, with harsh federal policies still on the horizon. With income and wealth disparity at an all-time high, the gap between luxury and poverty is magnified in Park City, where most undocumented workers earn low wages working multiple jobs in a county where the price of housing is more than double that of the rest of the state. The success of world-class resorts and the Sundance Film Festival has made Park City a playground for the mega-rich, as much as a draw for those seeking economic opportunity. While the climate of immigration reform affects the hard-working families of Park City today, its long-term effects on the community and local economy could be devastating.

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Image Courtesy: Holy Cross Ministries

Vanessa Conabee
Vanessa Conabee
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