Greenfield's police chief Joe Grebmeier says he's an Anglo with a Mexican heart.
once proclaimed that apartheid-like conditions were prevalent in the Salinas Valley and he
would not tolerate them in Greenfield
Grebmeier, 56, who became chief in 2003, began to hold regular meetings to address Oaxacans' fear of police and teach them about U.S. law enforcement.
focused on street lights and stop signs, urinating in public and keeping farm animals.
Hundreds of indigenous migrants attended.
When residents asked him why he
didn't arrest the "illegals," Grebmeier
countered that hounding immigrants was not his
And for the most part, federal immigration agents rarely conducted large sweeps in communities like Greenfield, populated by large numbers of undocumented farmworkers.
"These are hard-working, honest people who came here for the same reasons all immigrants came before them," Grebmeier
said, "to make better lives for their families and their kids."
later concluded it was a case of arranged marriage and dowry exchange, which he
used as a teaching moment.
At the meetings, the chief explained that U.S. law prohibits such practices.
The man was later deported.
But some locals complained that Grebmeier
sheltered Oaxacans from the law.
said those figures included some Greenfield residents killed in other cities.
In April, about 300 indigenous men, women and children jammed the Greenfield city council chamber in support of Grebmeier
told city leaders that he
gave no special treatment to the migrants: "If they commit a crime, we arrest them."
The increase in violent crime throughout the Salinas Valley, he
said, was caused by gangs and their drug wars, not the influx of Oaxacan farmworkers.
The homicide rate in nearby Salinas had doubled over the past few years and in 2009 stood over four times the national average.
A gang member had even made an unsuccessful run for the Greenfield City Council
The indigenous migrants, Grebmeier
said, were most often victims of crime, not criminals.
"During troubled economic times," Grebmeier
said, "it's not unusual to blame the newcomers."