As the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration increases, police around the country are having a harder time reassuring their undocumented population that they won’t be acting as defacto ICE agents. In some parts of the country, undocumented residents are refusing to report crimes out of fear they will be questioned about their immigration status. This lack of reporting can contribute to a rise in criminal activity, as witnesses and victims are less likely to help police locate perpetrators or provide testimony. To prevent this from happening in Bellevue, Washington (a suburb of Seattle), the police department released a video reassuring citizens that police officers would not cooperate with an immigration officer in any way that could threaten the safety or freedom of its law-abiding citizens, undocumented or otherwise.
There are two conditions citizens of Bellevue need to know, however.
If someone is arrested, a police officer could inquire about a person’s immigration status. Secondly, when an undocumented criminal is arrested for a serious crime, immigration could be contacted to have that person removed if they are a threat to the public safety. In the video, Corporal Antonio Romero explains that this condition would not apply to anyone arrested for a minor crime or even a traffic violation.
A man was arrested for a DUI after police chased the man down the freeway while his dog was “driving.” The man, identified as Alberto Tito Alejandro, was arrested after the car he was in crashed. The incident happened in Lakewood, Washington, about 40 minutes south of Seattle.
During a statewide lockdown due to COVID-19, a 51-year-old man led police on a high-speed chase.
The chase down Interstate 5 reached more than 100 miles per hour. The police attempted to pull Alberto Tito Alejandro over after he hit two cars on the freeway without stopping. The man continued to drive down I-5 until police were able to corner the 1996 Buick and bring the high-speed chase to a stop. Police said that several people had called 911 to report the driver driving erratically.
When the police tried to corner the car, they made a shocking discovery.
Police noticed that the pit bull was in the driver’s seat as the dog’s owner was in the passenger seat steering and working the pedals. According to police who were there for the arrest, the man claimed that he was just teaching his dog how to drive. Police described the pit bull as a “very sweet girl.“
The discovery is something that even the police did expect.
“I wish I could make this up,” trooper Heather Axtman told CNN. “I’ve been a trooper for almost 12 years and wow, I’ve never heard this excuse. I’ve been in a lot of high speed chases, I’ve stopped a lot of cars, and never have I gotten an excuse that they were teaching their dog how to drive.”
Maria Blancas grew up the child of farmworkers and saw the impacts of their work in real-time. She even worked on farms when she was in high school picking apples and onion seeds. It wasn’t until she got to college that she realized how little people truly understood about her community and their lives. So, she dedicated her studies to the lives and conditions of farmworkers and it paid off.
Maria Blancas is a Ph.D student at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.
Blancas grew up with migrant farmworker parents from Mexico. She helped on the farms and watched as the other farmworkers dealt with the physical nature of the job. However, in her undergraduate years, according to The Seattle Times, Blancas realized people had oversimplified the lives and struggles of the people she was working with.
Blancas has dedicated her education to improve the lives of her family and all others working in the fields.
According to The Seattle Times, Blancas wants to change the narrative around what is happening to the farmworkers’ community. Her aim is to create a fuller and more in-depth picture of the lives and “issues” within the community as the work in the fields.
Her work so far won her a $100,000 prize from the Bullitt Foundation to focus on furthering her work.
The Bullitt Foundation aims to “safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the website.
In that effort, the foundation is giving Blancas a significant grant to allow her to focus on her work.
“When people ask me why I do the work that I do,” Blancas told The Seattle Times. “I always think about my family: mi familia.”
The Bullitt Prize is different than most awards and prizes.
Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes told The Seattle Times that the prize a “reverse Nobel Peace Prize” in that it doesn’t reward people on their overall work. Instead, the foundation looks for people with potential and awards them at the early stages of their careers based on where their work could go.
Blancas has already done work within her community by surveying the community during her time working at the local community college.
The Seattle Times reports that Blancas noticed that some people would go to her community and conduct studies of the workers. However, the groups would leave and never share the results. So, Blancas teamed up with other researchers and did a survey of 350 farmworkers from Whatcom and Skagit to see what was happening, who they were, and what they needed.
The team discovered that “40 percent of the workers identified as indigenous peoples, mostly from Mexico, and about a quarter couldn’t read Spanish. Its findings, in keeping with academic conventions, quantified problems: 40 percent said they didn’t always have regular breaks, 20 percent lacked consistent access to water, and 60 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year.”
Blancas is planning a dissertation that will incorporate video of farmworker testimonials.
Blancas will be hosting a workshop to teach farmworkers how to create the videos for the dissertation.