In a powerful new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Dickinson College professor Crispin Sartwell describes how Trump’s indiscriminate deportations are sowing fear, wreaking havoc on the local agricultural economy and sense of community in York Springs, a rural Pennsylvania town. It’s a must read.
“Fiestas and Apple Orchards: Small-Town Life Before Trump” is excerpted below and available online here.
President Trump has had a difficult time getting much of his agenda off the ground. But one thing I’ve already seen change under his administration: Immigration law is being enforced more aggressively. Out in rural Pennsylvania, in a county Donald Trump carried with 66% of the vote, this is already having a devastating effect on the economy and culture.
I live in York Springs, a no-stoplight town near Gettysburg, in the middle of what’s known as the South Mountain Fruit Belt … York Springs, known locally as “Little Mexico” or “Rednexico,” has a population of 800 or so, 46% Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. This, I daresay, is now inaccurate: If you made the population 1,100 and 70% Hispanic, you’d be nearer the mark. Many people came to Adams County as seasonal apple pickers, and orchards need tending year round, so they stayed. Some became orchard managers, and some started businesses: hair salons and restaurants, grocery stores and landscaping companies.
The mix is a remarkable thing: Oaxaca in a Wyeth painting. With its red barns, rolling hills and blossoming trees, living in this part of rural America is like being in a calendar. It has rural American values too, which are instinctively traditional and oriented toward family and hard work. It’s just that a lot of the folks living by these values today have brownish skin and speak Spanish. Some are citizens, some are not, often both within the same family.
… York Springs in recent years has developed a vibrant, intersectional culture, insofar as that’s possible in such a sparsely populated place. Almost anyone might hire Renta Fiestas for a party. There was, until recently, even street life of sorts popping up: a Mexican food truck, children playing fútbol, the occasional interethnic teen couple holding hands at Griest Park.
Now, however, York Springs has become a target for immigration enforcement. Statistics by locality are hard to come by, but an attorney speaking at a community forum last month at the Adams County Agricultural Center said there were at least 15 actions in York Springs during February and March, with many more since, including street arrests and traffic stops that have resulted in detentions.
… This is separating families, and people are living in fear. Children aren’t playing out in the yard any longer. Parents are afraid to leave their homes even to walk their children to the bus, according to immigrants who spoke at the forum. The food truck is gone, and it’s been a while since I heard Mexican pop music.
This stringent enforcement of immigration law is destroying a rich, new rural culture. It’s likely to destroy the economy, too. The orchards generate over $500 million a year, and, one way or another, most of the jobs. But the local growers, many of whom have been operating the family orchards for generations, worry they won’t have enough manpower this fall to harvest the crop.
Sure, a lot of the white folk out here voted for Mr. Trump. Even then, many of them had reservations specifically about his immigration stance. I heard them expressed by Trump supporters in line to vote at the Latimore Township building. Now as we spiral into a local depression that is personal, cultural and economic, a lot of them are going to regret voting for him anyway.