Jeff Jardine

Good show, old chap: BBC crew comes to Modesto to investigate political climate change

BBC crewman Jay Dacey preps Eder Aramburu-Lopez of El Concilio for an interview, on Monday, March 20, 2017 in Modesto.
BBC crewman Jay Dacey preps Eder Aramburu-Lopez of El Concilio for an interview, on Monday, March 20, 2017 in Modesto.

You know it promises to be an interesting work week when it begins with British TV folks visiting members of a Latino organization across the street from the office.

Yes, the British Broadcasting Corp. sent a crew to downtown Modesto on Monday to interview staff at El Concilio about the political climate in the United States as the Trump administration closes in on its first 100 days.

The Brits are, indeed, fascinated with American politics, BBC producer Paddy Duffy and director Victoria James both said. Their crew came across the pond during the presidential campaign in attempt to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon. Now, they’ve returned to see how it’s all working out since he took over the Oval Office.

“We came here to understand how America is feeling in the aftermath of the election,” James said. “What’s happening now, and in the next four years of his presidency. How it will affect America and America in the outside world.”

They are taping footage for an hour-long special that will air on the BBC April 24, hosted by Jeremy Paxman.

“He’s like the Ted Koppel or Charlie Rose of the United Kingdom,” Duffy said.

They began their series of interviews in Washington, D.C., where they met with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and then onto Dearborn, Mich., where Trump won narrowly in a state that solidly backed Democratic presidential candidates in the six previous elections.

Then, on to the Valley. Why Modesto and why El Concilio?

“They Googled El Concilio and saw that we have done a lot of work on immigration issues,” said Teresa Guerrero, the organization’s site supervisor in Modesto. “They contacted us about two or three weeks ago.”

“They’ve been involved in immigration and completely fit our profile,” Duffy said, after interviewing Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini, a staunch Trump supporter who also chairs the Stanislaus County Republican and is a farmer, earlier in the day.

The administration’s approach already is impacting immigration in ways some didn’t foresee, according to Solange Altman, El Concilio’s attorney coordinator for immigration services. Farmers who rely on migrant workers are finding them harder to come by.

“A person I talked to is having a hard time getting them,” Altman said. “It’s having a chilling effect.”

It, meaning the crackdown on undocumented immigrants, many of whom normally work seasonally here and then return Mexico in the fall. Instead, she said, some aren’t coming at all. And those who are here legally and want to become citizens feel threatened as well.

“I teach citizenship classes and workshops,” Altman said. Monday, she taught a pre-workshop orientation explaining the overall process. The BBC filmed that group, as well.

Immigration is just one part of the BBC’s interest. Overall, they are trying to understand what Trump means to the bigger picture, to America and the world after he won an election they didn’t think he’d win.

“It’s an unexpected presidency,” James said.

And a whirlwind one at that thus far, they said, has changed the climate of political interest both from what they’ve seen here and in the United Kingdom.

“People are engaging with things they now gauge as important,” Duffy said. “Until now, you never heard, “Did you hear what the National Security Adviser said?’ Politics have become a daily conversation again.”

With plenty to discuss, since Trump is expected to visit England soon.

“There’s a new headline every 15 seconds,” James said. “We’re trying to slow it down and take a more evergreen approach to the issues at hand.”

Understanding America’s political climate might take a few more trips across the pond, though. Nothing changes more rapidly these days.