Pasco Community Struggles With Divisions in Community

March 29, 2015 8:29 am
by David Jakeman

The town of Pasco, Washington has recently been in the limelight for a shooting captured on film. The shooting captured police officers gunning down a resident of the city who was also an undocumented immigrant. The police officers gunned down the man after he had been throwing rocks at passing cars, and it ripped the cover off of divisions between now majority immigrant community and the white minority that holds control over much of the local government.

The Challenge of Coming Together

One point of tension is the way that some of the long-time residents feel that the now majority Latino immigrant community is crowding them out. The downtown area of Pasco is actually known as “Little Mexico, with quinceanera dresses, Mexican restaurants and shops, and even Mexican themed murals showing the heavy influence of the large immigrant population.

Some Pasco residents feel like their jobs and work opportunities are being crowded out by the large influx of immigrants over the past few decades. One woman explained the difficulty of finding a job as a nurse. She was qualified but unable to get the job because she spoke only English. Speaking Spanish in many ways has become a prerequisite for certain jobs.

City Hall Diversity

Despite this large influx of Latino immigrants, it would be difficult to tell that the demographics of the city have changed so dramatically if you were to simply look at the leadership in City Hall. This is a point of contention for many who believe their concerns are not taken seriously by local officials. Combine that with a predominantly white police force, and many residents of Pasco feel a bit sidelined.

Moves such as the further regulation of taco trucks have also made the Latino population feel unfairly targeted. With many undocumented immigrants among them, it can be hard to feel at ease to begin with. Both real and perceived injustices build on themselves until large divides can be created in communities. Hopefully local city officials will take the tragic shooting as a way of bringing about comprehensive efforts to build a strong community.1

Neighboring Kennewick

One interesting thing to look at is the comparable statistics between police forces of Kennewick and Pasco. Pasco city officials have pointed out that they have more Spanish-speaking police officers than those around them, but those cities also don’t have as large of a Latino population as Pasco. Hiring more Latino and bilingual police officers could go a long way in helping rebuild the Latino community’s trust.

Kennewick immigration attorneys and Pasco immigration attorneys know that their clients already face enough difficulties. Hopefully all the local officials in the Tri-City area can learn from the sad shooting and take steps to make sure the immigrant population feels both safe and respected.