Trump Makes 2017 Kentucky Derby Stormier: Immigrants At Churchill Downs Fear ICE [Opinion]

Is it possible that Trump had an influence on the outcome of the 2017 Kentucky Derby because of his anti-immigrant attitude?

Trump did not show up during the rainy weather at the 2017 Kentucky Derby, but his stormy anti-immigrant presence was felt by Churchill Downs workers, their employers, and the pro-immigrant citizens of Louisville.

Weeks ahead of the 2017 Kentucky Derby, the city of Louisville prepared to welcome tens-of-thousands of horse racing tourists from all over the world, but the most important people involved with the Derby are immigrants that work at Churchill Downs.

Sadly, while they are responsible for millions of tourist dollars brought into the region by the Kentucky Derby, there are over 1,000 hard-working immigrants employed by Churchill Downs that are now afraid they will be targeted by immigration authorities like ICE.

The Guardian published a report for the 2017 Kentucky Derby about the lives of immigrants that work with horses at Churchill Downs. While employers have repeatedly stated to the press that these immigrant workers are the backbone of the modern thoroughbred horse racing industry, Trump has created a dark side to the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

For example, because of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant fire, Churchill Downs workers from places like Mexico and Guatemala are becoming scarce, according to Julio Rubio of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Worse, according to Julio Rubio, Churchill Downs workers that are permanently housed in dorms on the property are living in fear. About the situation, Julio Rubio was quoted stating the following around the time of the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

“Most of the workers we have at the track won’t even leave to go out at night to buy groceries because they are so scared of being deported.”

As someone that lived for 20 years within a mile of Churchill Downs, this is especially shocking considering that a Kroger’s grocery store is literally on the other side of the street from the Churchill Downs property.

To think that crossing that parking lot seems to be too much to risk is also unfortunate to hear since Kentucky is heavily dependent on these particular immigrants to help with the horses.

Trump threatens immigrants at Churchill Downs.
Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are threatening Churchill Downs immigrant workers and their employers. [Image by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]

In addition to the workers having anxiety about Trump’s dark shadow on their future, employers at Churchill Downs are also angry at the White House.

For instance, horse trainer Dale Romans complained about the lack of skilled labor at Churchill Downs in May 2017. Substitution is not an exception since specialized knowledge is required to take care of a prize-winning Kentucky Derby thoroughbred, and teams take years to season.

About the situation, Dale Romans blamed Trump’s immigration policies directly and stated, “There’s a lot of uncertainty about whether or not we are going to have the labor force we need.”

Unfortunately, the fears of the immigrants at Churchill Downs (even though they are holding legal visas) are valid.

On February 14, Courier-Journal reported that around 100 immigrants were rounded up and deported by ICE in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. For some, their main offense was not an expired visa but a DUI.

Despite the stormy environment Trump has created for Churchill Downs immigrants, Louisville is showing in several ways that they stand in solidarity with visa holders.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has repeatedly stood up for immigrants and stated that his city would add their name to the list of sanctuary cities. Around January 30, Louisville had a pro-immigrant rally that drew over 5,000 local Kentuckians.

On Facebook, Louisville has continued to stand up for the immigrants they know that are working at Churchill Downs.

For instance, as a recent Louisville resident, I saw many posts on social media before and during the 2017 Kentucky Derby events that were re-posted from a Facebook group called Mijente.

Attached to these re-posts were comments from people in Louisville that stated their neighbors around Churchill Downs were worried about getting raided by ICE during or before the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

One re-post from Mijente included a video about immigrant workers at Churchill Downs and their importance to the outcome of the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

Another meme about the 2017 Kentucky Derby mentioned the event in Louisville in conjunction with four ideas — one of which specifically stated they wanted to keep “sanctuary city” status.

The backbone of the horse industry in America is immigrant.
It is difficult to find skilled horse workers in America, and the thoroughbred industry is heavily dependent on immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala. [Image by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]

Ultimately, if Trump has his way with making immigration next to impossible, he could eventually shut down the 2018 Kentucky Derby by default. If the 2018 Kentucky Derby does take place, evaluating winners before the race will be difficult since the horse teams will be short-staffed or poorly skilled labor substitutes.

After all, if the horse workers are not able to get their visas on time or cannot get them at all, there could be a serious problem with lack of workers at Churchill Downs… and the 2018 Kentucky Derby would fall to its knees.

One of the first serious discussions about Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and how it would affect Kentucky’s horse industry was published by the Lexington Herald-Leader on December 10, 2016. At the time, Alex Waldrop, National Thoroughbred Racing Association president said that the horse racing industry was lobbying in Washington D.C. to get an exemption for their immigrant workers.

In addition to the Kentucky Derby, there are other areas of the Bluegrass State that could be negatively affected by Trump’s ruthless immigration policies. For example, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, Western Kentucky farmers are heavily dependent on workers from Mexico.

In fact, many of the Kentucky farm owners are extremely close to their immigrant workers and spend part of the year vacationing with their workers in Mexico.

Of course, when immigrants have a good reason to fear law enforcement, it also makes justice difficult to obtain in other ways. For example, having an open working relationship with the police and government could be helpful in solving a cold case.

In 2012, a Churchill Downs stable worker and groomer named Adan Fabian Perez was brutally beaten to death and murdered the morning after the Kentucky Derby.

To date, this crime that occurred near Barn 8 has still not been solved, according to WLKY. Reports two years after his murder stated that losing 48-year-old Perez of Guatemala was still an extreme shock to the tight-knit community of 1,000 workers at Churchill Downs.

Anyone that wants to show their support for Churchill Downs workers can donate to pro bono immigration legal aid organizations throughout Louisville or Kentucky.

For example, within a couple of blocks of Churchill Downs, Catholic Charities hosts a free immigration help office. Among their services includes representation during the removal process. The City of Louisville also has a resource page for immigrants and refugees.

If you suspect your friend, neighbor, or co-worker has been deported, Immigration Law Help lists the Grayson County Detention Center or Boone County Jail as Kentucky’s deportation holding facilities.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also has a database that allows anyone to search to see if someone has been deported.

[Featured Image by Michael Reaves/Getty Images]