Over the past seven days, the agricultural hub of the state has searched for immigration-related topics more than any other area of the country, according to Google Trends.
After the Trump administration released new rules related to immigration and border enforcement, interest in the subject of immigration surged on Google, with searches from Yakima and the Tri-Cities ranking among the highest in the country.
Nationwide, searches involving the word “immigration” peaked Tuesday evening on Google after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s release of two memos outlining how it would carry out two executive orders signed by President Trump last month.
Those orders — separate from the “travel ban” entangled in federal court — directed the “immediate construction of a physical wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the hiring of 15,000 more federal employees to patrol the border and conduct deportations. They also called for denying federal funds to “sanctuary cities” such as Seattle, and spelled out new rules allowing federal agents to seek deportation of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime.
Searches from Yakima, Pasco, Kennewick and Richland ranked first in the nation over the past seven days, according to Google Trends. The region is the state’s agricultural hub and has a sizable Latino population.
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The area remained high in the search rankings through Friday morning, fluctuating with the news of immigration raids in other states, including Mississippi.
The new Homeland Security rules have generated concern statewide, said Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle.
“We are seeing mostly fear,’’ Barón said. “For instance, in the Seattle office, around the same time period last year, we were averaging 600, 700 calls per day. We’re now experiencing, the last couple of days, 1,300 calls per day.”
The calls are coming “directly from impacted community members, and also other folks in the community who are concerned about people that they know or people they work with,’’ Barón said. “We’re hearing from schools, health-care providers — they’re all trying to figure out what they can do to protect clients and people they work with.”
Barón said some of the searches could be driven by local news, particularly if there was coverage of enforcement actions by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and by an uncertain political climate east of the Cascades.
“There’s a heightened level of concern in Eastern Washington because they’re not hearing the same things that people in Western Washington are hearing from their political leaders,’’ he said.
Barón said he spoke with the top attorney in the project’s Granger office, and learned that immigrants there “feel the rest of the community is in favor of enforcement, unlike Seattle where you see protests and support.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has been adamant about protecting undocumented immigrants in the community and preserving Seattle’s status as a “sanctuary city.”
In January, the mayor said he is preparing to lose “every penny” of the tens of millions of dollars the federal government sends the city each year.
“This city will not be bullied by this administration into abandoning our core values, and we believe we have the rule of law and the courts on our side,” the mayor said at the time.
Among the top immigration questions being searched on Google nationally:
• What is an immigrant?
• What is the latest immigration news?
• What are the new immigration laws?
• Do “illegal immigrants” pay taxes?