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Park City Officials Take Stock Of ICE Events In Moab Valley

There’s a lot of differences between Moab and Park City but both of them are resort towns that rely on immigrants to fill service industry positions which in turn support their local economies.  Moab’s recent ICE round-up has some lessons for Park City. Melissa Allison has more:

The Moab Police Department knew the Immigration Customs Enforcement – or ICE – was going to be in town on August 24th, but they didn’t know why.

What the community knows now is nine adults were taken into custody by federal officers. While the details surrounding that isn’t clear – what is clear is the community was impacted to the point that a couple of businesses had to shut down temporarily because of staffing problems.

Moab Valley Multi-cultural Center Executive Director Rhiana Medina said even legal immigrants stayed home from work or left town out of fear.  She says it was a frightening event for the community.

“Interacting with any kind of law enforcement can be scary, you know nerve-racking," Medina said. "But if you didn’t do anything wrong, then you really shouldn’t have anything to be afraid of. A lot of rumors that ensued when this happened was, when we were getting phone calls for the, on Friday and Saturday, a lot of them were saying that said, ‘We saw ICE,’ and they were really afraid. And when we verified what they were talking about, they just had seen regular local law enforcement. We saw people in the community confusing ICE with local law enforcement and that’s exactly what we don’t want.”

Moab Valley Police Chief Jim Winder said educating the immigrant communities about the differences between local law enforcement and federal officers might have prevented some of the issues.

“You know, the one thing a bout this particular community is the lines of communication are pretty strong," Winder said. "And I think when we can get out ahead of it and tell people; we’ll never be able to allay the fear about immigration affecting individuals out of status, we know that. But what we’ve gotta, really try and focus on is the laying of the broader panic that can ensue about local law enforcement interaction and what they can expect that way. I think that’s the key, is to get out ahead of it and let people know that anybody here that is out of status, they inherently know there is a risk, but they also need to know what the realities of living in this country are, outside of that context.”

Medina said because of events several years ago, they’ve helped people create an emergency plan – just in case.

“Regardless of your status, having an emergency plan for if something happens," Medina said. "You know if you, God forbid, get into an car accident or if there is a natural disaster, this is kind of what emergency planning is for. And at the center we have some really great forms that we have gathered from different organizations that they’ve shared with us. People have been coming into the center since things have calmed down and revising their emergency plans or asking for a new form and that’s’ really, really important. Who do you want your kids to go with if something like this were to happen? What, you know your bank account, your vehicles, I mean, people have whole lives here.”

KPCW asked Park City Council Member Tim Henney if the city has considered what it would do if something like this happened in Park City.

“I think city council and our entire community has considered this and its heartbreaking,” Henney said.

“Well we’re talking about social equity and Ms. Medina had a good point there in terms, I mean it’s probably good information for anybody,” KPCW said.

“Yeah,” Henney agreed.

“But in the event of an emergency, have information that people can move forward with,” KPCW asked.

“It’s heartbreaking though that people would have to factor that component into their emergency planning," Henney said. "I mean, are you kidding me? You know, this is about the identity of a community. Are you going to be inclusive and hopeful or are you going to be hateful and create despair?”

Mayor Andy Beerman was at a conference with some of Moab’s council members when the events took place and said Park City is not immune.

“To me the larger concern is making sure our residents feel safe and valued here and that’s all residents," Beerman said. "And when an incident like this happens, it scares everybody and really kind of brings out a lot of fear in the community So, what we’ve taken on is mostly preventative measures and tried to build strong relationships in advance. In particular our police have made great efforts to create a trust and good lines of communication between them and the Latino community.”

Beerman hopes the community will continue to come together to bridge the gap between the many diverse groups in Park City.

I’m Melissa Allison, KPCW News. 

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