Mexican Consul Roberto Dondisch of Seattle and representatives from Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador and Honduras toured dairies and farms in Central Washington to raise awareness of labor rights and the rise in tensions over immigrants in the U.S.
SUNNYSIDE — Representatives of several Latin American countries took a three-day tour of Central Washington dairies and farms over the past week, talking with workers about labor rights and how to get help.
“It’s very important for people to know where they stand legally, to know what their rights are, and (understand) their situation,” said Roberto Dondisch, the consul from the Mexican consulate office in Seattle.
Dondisch and consuls from Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador and Honduras participated in the tour, which was intended to raise awareness of labor rights as Labor Day approaches.
The consuls will typically negotiate on behalf of immigrants over workplace accidents and issues involving wages and visas, but when speaking to local workers in the past week, the consuls reported they hadn’t heard of any serious problems.
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However, Dondisch and the others also spoke about rising tensions over immigrants in this country.
The consuls say they haven’t seen a spike in friction in Washington state, but said immigrants should still be taking precautions.
Of the 7.2 million people in the state, roughly 820,000 are of Latino heritage. Dondisch said his office has heard concerns that Latino schoolchildren were becoming increasingly uncomfortable around their peers, a situation he blames on President Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans and his promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Citing the large numbers of Mexicans in the U.S. and visa-carrying Americans in Mexico — roughly 35 million and 2 million, respectively — Dondisch said building a wall between the two countries would only hurt both.
To strengthen ties between communities despite anti-Hispanic rhetoric, Dondisch said, a strong effort by everyone is required.
“This is the moment for everybody to realize how important the Hispanic community is to the state,” he said. “It’s a good moment to reach out to your neighbor and make sure that he or she knows that they’re part of the community.”
As U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents step up their scrutiny of immigrants, there is a need for increased caution among Latinos, Dondisch said.
Immigrants need to remain informed of their rights and the resources available to them and should be prepared to present forms of identification such as documentation papers, passports and birth certificates, he said.
And while he understands that makes some immigrants anxious, he said fear only makes the situation worse.
“We ask our communities not to be afraid,” he said. “They can’t be afraid because that’s not a way to live, but (they should) be prepared.”