Trumbo's letter voiced the growing frustration of a region that has been compared to the California farmlands of the 1950s and 1960s — a place going through a transition in racial demographics. Between 1990 and 2000, Umatilla County's Latino population, including legal and illegal immigrants, jumped 114% to 11,400 people, according to the Census Bureau. This doesn't include thousands of seasonal workers who live here part of the year and many others who choose not to be counted. About 70,000 people live in the county. In towns such as Hermiston, Umatilla and Milton-Freewater, Latinos occupy entire neighborhoods, and the beginnings of "Little Mexico" commercial areas have taken hold. The neighborhoods tend to be poorer, and many residents blame Latino immigrants for the region's gang and drug problems. Public schools have become increasingly populated by Latinos. In Milton-Freewater and Umatilla, with a combined enrollment of about 3,300, Latinos make up half of the student body. No one knows how many are children of illegal immigrants because federal law prohibits schools from asking about parents' immigration status. Undocumented residents also have access to state and county services for drug and alcohol treatment, mental health, domestic violence and nutrition. While there's grousing about taxpayer money being used for these services, nothing ignites more anger than illegal residents who end up in the criminal justice system." They already broke the law once coming over here," says Pendleton resident Elaina Solomon, 49, an emigre from Honduras who works as a legal assistant. " Then they commit murders and robberies while they're here. Why should we pay for their room and board at the jail? Why should we foot the bill?"
Well, let's just say that type of activity could put a lot of stress on the local budget. For Trumbo in particular, this dramatic immigrant influx has strained the capacity of his department to provide services:
The county has a daily jail capacity of 252 inmates but can afford staff and services for only 135. The sheriff's office should have a minimum of 27 patrol officers but can fund only nine. Between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day, no patrol officer is on duty." When people call the police, they expect to see the police," Trumbo says. " They see it on TV all the time. But there are times when I can't send anybody because I don't have anybody because I don't have the money." One reason, he says, is because the department spends so much of its $6.5-million annual budget on apprehending and jailing illegal immigrants. He understands that the immigration debate is complex and he hopes the people in Washington, D.C., are working to solve the problem soon. He has no problem with Latinos personally, he says. "Some of my best friends," Trumbo says, "are Hispanic." He just wanted to tell someone, anyone, about the situation here. Sometimes a sheriff in rural eastern Oregon can feel like his words dissolve in the wind, like a coyote's howl. Is anyone out there listening? President Bush? Presidente Fox?Not everyone in the local community appreciated Sheriff Trumbo's missive to Mexico's head of government. Some of the local Hispanic rights attorneys called Trumbo racist, the normal response of the illegal immigrant unearned entitlement community. For example: "Shelley Latin, an attorney who represents mostly low-income Latinos, says Trumbo's letter hinted at a type of racism pervasive within local law enforcement. "'The implication is that Hispanics are the cause of the crime problems here,'" Latin says. "'It suggests that if Hispanics were all taken away, we would suddenly be crime-free. That's just silly.'"
Resorting to the race card just demonstrates the lack of intellectual firepower among the illegal alien legal advocates. Demanding fairness and equity in local budgetary politics, and demands for freedom from immigrant gang criminals is not racist. We need more Sheriff Trumbos around here.