Unsettled: How Immigration is Growing Painesville

Businesses like La Hispana, a market, have opened in Painesville.
Businesses like La Hispana, a market, have opened in Painesville. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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All this week, we’ll be talking about how immigration enforcement under President Trump is affecting one Northeast Ohio community. The city of Painesville in Lake County has about one in four people identifying as Hispanic or Latino.

Nick Castele and Tony Ganzer talked about the series Unsettled: Immigration in Ohio, and about the city of Painesville itself.

GANZER: “Nick, how significant is the immigrant community there?”

CASTELE: “It’s really significant. There are a lot of towns that are like Painesville, similar in size in Northeast Ohio that have been losing population in recent decades. But Painesville’s actually been growing, and what seems to be behind that is immigration. The Latino community in Painesville since the year 2000 has more than doubled: it grew 127 percent up until about 2015. The percent of the population that is known as the white non-Hispanic population, as defined by the Census, that number fell by 10 percent [over that period]. So it seems to be that if not for the Hispanic community, Painesville would be shrinking. And a lot of those folks are immigrants or the children of immigrants.”

GANZER: “As we heard, many of those families come not just from Mexico, but from a particular part of that country, the city of Leon.”

CASTELE: “Right, Leon is a city in the southern part of Mexico, in a state called Guanajuato. You and I both know, we talked to a number of people who said that they have roots there, some even have family members who live in Leon. Now also many of the people we talked to were in mixed-status families. So one parent might have some sort of legal status, or maybe the children were born here, sometimes one child is born in Mexico and others in the United States. There was one woman who testified at Painesville city council who said she herself is a citizen, of the United States, but others in her family are not. So you can see how when one person is deported because they’re undocumented, it has effects on family members who are here legally.”

GANZER: “Sure. And talk more about the city’s history with ICE, immigration and customs enforcement.”

CASTELE: “In 2007, there was a weekend of arrests and deportations by ICE that got a lot of attention, not just in the local media, but also caused a big stir in the city of Painesville itself. About 24 people were picked up, according to ICE at the time. Let’s hear from one interview that we did. We spoke with a woman named Faviola, who remembers that time. She says that while ICE was doing these arrests, she was afraid even to go to church.”

FAVIOLA: “My family called me and said, ‘You want to go to church?’ I said, ‘No, no, if I go to church, [they’ll catch] me.’ Really drama in the community, really scared for [the Latino community].”

CASTELE: “So ICE was looking for and arresting specific people, according to what spokespeople told the Plain Dealer at the time. This was all part of a Bush administration initiative that was undertaken just about the time Congress was considering an immigration reform proposal, which included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which ultimately went nowhere.”  

GANZER: “As we’re laying the land here, kind of getting a view of Painesville, let’s talk politics for a moment. How did Painesville vote last November?”

CASTELE: “In the city of Painesville itself, 54 percent of the voters went for Hillary Clinton. But in Lake County overall, Donald Trump won with 55 percent of the vote. Now this is significant because the county used to be politically pretty close in past elections. Obama won 08, Romney won in 2012, and they both won by very small margins, less than 1 percentage point. But last November was really different. Donald Trump won by a margin of 15 points.” 

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