WIMAUMA, Fla. - Rumors about deportation raids started to circulate around the fields again, so Catalina Sanchez and her husband began to calculate the consequences of everything they did.
Cirilo Perez, 36, had to go to work because the tomato crop was getting low, and he needed to pick as much as he could as fast as he could. Sanchez's medical checkup would have to wait - going to a clinic was too risky. What they fretted most about was what to do with their daughter Miriam - a natural-born citizen in the third grade - who they worried would come home one day to an empty trailer.
"When she leaves, I wonder if it will be the last time I see her," Sanchez, 26, said on a recent evening.
As President Donald Trump moves to turn the full force of the federal government toward deporting undocumented immigrants, a newfound fear of the future has already cast a pall over the tomato farms and strawberry fields in the largely undocumented migrant communities east of Tampa.
Any day could be when deportations ramp up; that, to them, seemed certain. No one knew when or where. And so the community here is in a state of suspension. Children have stopped playing in parks and the streets and businesses have grown quieter, as many have receded into the background, where they feel safe.
"It's all gringos here," said Maria Pimentel, owner of the community staple Taqueria El Sol, who said she had never heard so much English in her restaurant in her life. Business had plummeted, she said, because her Spanish-speaking customers were "scared to come out of their house."
Trump has repeatedly cast undocumented workers from Mexico as "bad hombres" and "lower-skilled workers with less education who compete directly against vulnerable American workers." Trump made clear during his campaign that "those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: to return home and apply for reentry like everybody else."
In the early days of his administration, Trump has begun to follow through on those promises. Earlier this month, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 680 people across the country. The agency has also become aggressive about attempting to detain undocumented migrants who have been jailed by local authorities. As of Friday, it has issued more than 42,000 detainer requests this year, 35 percent higher than the year before.
ICE described its actions as "routine" and lambasted those who labeled them as "raids" because nearly 1 in 4 of those arrested had no criminal records.
Activists and residents here said they saw at least six people taken away on Feb. 2 during a search for someone accused of selling fake Social Security cards in nearby Plant City, the "Winter Strawberry Capital of the World." The next day, the number of migrant children who stayed home from school surged by 40 percent, according to statistics from the local school district.
There were crackdowns under President Barack Obama, as well, but local activist Norma Rosalez said people generally trusted him to target only criminals and potential terrorists. Obama also offered protection to "dreamers" - undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age - but teenagers were now afraid to apply to the program, Rosalez said, over fears that an application would lead an immigration officer straight to their door.
The changed environment made many wonder what would happen to the north this spring and summer, when workers normally move on to Georgia to pick peaches or to Michigan to pick peppers. Many thought they would now stay put. It was safer that way.
"We look at it like this: The country can either import its workforce or import its food," said Dale Moore, executive director of policy for the Farm Bureau, which lobbies for easing restrictions to get foreign workers for agriculture.
"We've been fighting for this for years, but immigration has a different flavor with Donald Trump," Moore said.
Growers here rejected Trump's notion that farmworkers were competing with American workers, and hoped he would see more nuance to the issue.
"You can actually make a good living - $15, $20 an hour if you're good at this - but the truth is Americans don't want to do this work," said one prominent Florida farmer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared Trump's administration would target him for speaking out.
One recent night, Sanchez got a Facebook message saying that raids were going to happen either that day or the next. Another friend told them about a police car checking vehicles in a nearby town. Someone else talked about seeing an ICE officer shopping at Walmart. There was a meeting for concerned parents in a nearby subdivision, but they wondered whether it was a trap.
"Is it safe?" Sanchez asked Maristela Hinojosa, a community coordinator for the Hispanic Services Council who organized the meeting. She had received so many similar calls that she considered canceling.
Hinojosa held the meeting and, not long after Sanchez and Perez took their seats in the back, she locked the doors to make people feel safer. When there was a knock, she responded with, "Quien es?" before opening the door.
This was the sort of lesson Hinojosa emphasized to the attendants. Don't just open the door. If there is an ICE agent on the other side, don't open it at all. She told them about their right to remain silent. She handed out tiny cards that were to be handed over to anyone who stopped them, explaining that they did not speak English and would like a lawyer.
Perez immediately put the card in his wallet. "I feel like this is something I could do," he said with a rare touch of empowerment. He had met Sanchez working in the fields and together they had young Miriam and, now, a baby named Gustavo. They tried to avoid the topic with their children.
"I don't like what I'm doing, but I do it to make a living, and I find joy in that," Perez said after the meeting. "It was the choice between a full life for my children or a life of empty stomachs."
The couple began to cry. Miriam walked up to hug her father. Perez pulled out his cellphone and tried to change the subject.
"Do you want to see videos of working on the farm?" he asked his daughter.
There were similar sessions going on throughout the county, with community leaders focusing on helping families with American children. Lourdes Villanueva, director of programs for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which runs Head Start programs for migrant families throughout Florida, said she was surprised how popular they were - and how unpopular school had become.
Usually, there were waiting lists for migrant children to get into preschool, but after the election enrollment dropped by 43 percent. Staff at the Head Start center in nearby Dover began stacking cabbages and bananas on flatbeds outside so the farmworkers had food to take home when they picked up their children, since many of their parents were afraid to go to the grocery store.
Now Villanueva watched lawyer Diana Castro drill some of those parents on how to stay safe.
"Can I see your purse?" Castro asked a woman in the front row.
When she opened it, Castro said, "No. Nunca consienta en nada." Don't consent to anything.
Also, don't run.
Don't carry false IDs.
Practice the phrase, "Am I free to go?"
"Don't try to get pity from them, because they are not trying to help you," Castro said. "They are just trying to do their jobs."
Villanueva handed out a stack of documents that asked parents to name an emergency contact who would have authority to take custody of their children in case they were sent back to Mexico.
"No matter what, we should be prepared," Villanueva said.
The next day, Irene Lara and Paulina Martinez put on red shirts and climbed into a white van for a different kind of search.
As migrant recruiters for the school system, their job was to look for farmworker families who had not sent their children to school. They never inquired about their immigration status.
The recruiters helped to double the number of migrant children attending public school within two years, according to Carol Mayo, who supervises a program serving 4,000 students.
Nowadays, families were less likely to ask about school lunch and more likely to ask how they could get a lawyer or get in touch with the Mexican Consulate. One of her newest staffers even caused a scare when he drove to a trailer park wearing sunglasses. The dwellers began screaming as they ran inside and as laundry flew off clotheslines.
"I'm not immigration!" the new recruiter recalled screaming to calm them down.
Lara thought she had mastered how to find migrant workers. She would glance at people's knees to look for clumps of dirt or under their cuticles for stains from strawberries. She would demurely speak with them in Spanish, then try to impress them by telling them about the day she picked 81 flats of strawberries when she worked on the farms herself.
But, on this day, she and Martinez set out for a strip mall that farmworkers frequent and saw no one. They drove to a nearby strawberry field, where typically she could spot the silhouettes of bent-over strawberry pickers in the distance. The grove was relatively empty.
Lara looked at Martinez and said: "I don't think we're going to find anyone today."
They traveled next to a trailer park near one of the biggest strawberry fields in Plant City. As they drove into the lot, men jumped into cars with tinted windows and license plates from Tennessee, Wisconsin and Michigan. One driver wore a mask over his face.
"It's Day Without Immigrant protests, it's the talk about raids, it's the fear of strangers, it's everything," Lara said. "People are scared, but their children still need help. It's better for them to be in school."
They made one final stop at St. Clement Catholic Church, where more and more migrants had been showing up for Mass on Sundays. Pulling in, she saw something she had not seen all day: a man walking out of a building on the church campus with dirt caked on his jeans.
"Que paso?" she asked.
The man explained that representatives from the Mexican Consulate had set up in a recreation area of the church. The consulate had come to help undocumented migrants fill out paperwork for their American children so they could apply for dual citizenship. It was a last, desperate move for those who might get deported.
"I don't want to leave her with strangers," the man said to Lara.
Inside, parents sat in plastic chairs waiting to meet representatives who sat with a stack of paperwork on foldout tables. Some families came with bags filled with documents. Some had no proof of origin at all.
Kayla Gonzalez, 10, sat on the floor as her mother watched her baby brother.
"I think Trump is bullying people by the color of their skin and he should show love to people more and make better life choices," Kayla said. "I love my parents, and I don't understand why the government would want to take them away."
Kayla's mother, Perla Ocampo, 34, sells Mary Kay products; her father sells fruit.
When Kayla raised her fears about Trump with her mother, Ocampo said she had no good answers.
"I am a woman of faith," Ocampo recalled telling her daughter about Trump's plans. "We just have to trust that there is a reason we are living through this, and hope that this moment would open his heart and see the truth."
If not faith, then the law. Ocampo tried to remain calm. But Trump's America had so unsettled her, she felt forced to seek help from the country she ran away from 16 years ago. It was an America in which her American daughter was now looking to also become a Mexican citizen, so she could join her family if she came home from school one day to find an empty home.
They prayed it would never happen. Maybe it never would. But if it did, they wanted to be ready.
CYPRESS, Tex. - Booed and bloody, Mack Beggs dropped to his knees to celebrate. He was, after four wins and two days and all the rest, a state champion.
In a 12-2 victory against Chelsea Sanchez in the 110-pound classification, Beggs ended a highly controversial and dramatic weekend by becoming the first transgender participant to win a Class 6A girls' state championship in Texas high school wrestling.
"I just witnessed my sport change," a longtime Texas wrestling coach said moments after Beggs, a 17-year-old junior at Trinity High in Euless whose transition from girl to boy began two years ago and now includes testosterone injections, won a championship. The victory was seen as equal parts unavoidable - quick and noticeably strong, he entered the tournament unbeaten in 52 matches against girls - and contentious. The University Interscholastic League, which oversees sports in Texas public schools, ordered Beggs to continue competing in the girls' division despite heavy uproar and a lawsuit earlier this month in a Travis County district court.
So Saturday, those who had packed into Berry Center, a sprawling multipurpose facility in suburban Houston, were divided - like the state and country. It seemed an unlikely place to stage a raging political discussion, but the tournament ended a week in which President Trump revoked federal guidelines allowing transgender students to use public restrooms that match their gender identity; it played out in a sprawling and culturally diverse state divided over a controversial "bathroom bill" similar to the one roiling North Carolina.
In this time and place, with Beggs cruising to a state championship, the hundreds here had no choice but to confront one of the nation's most divisive and highly charged issues.
"She's standing there holding her head high like she's the winner," said Patti Overstreet, a mother of a wrestler in the boys' division. "She's not winning. She's cheating."
Overstreet, upset Friday in the moments after Beggs's opening-round victory, went on.
"It's not equal," she said. "It's never going to be equal."
Other parents tiptoed around the discussion, wondering what to say and how to say it. Kids confronted coaches about topics as complicated as gender identity and as simple as fairness, leading some to squirm and others to attempt explanations.
"Everybody has been talking about it. It's in the ether everywhere," said one longtime Texas high school wrestling coach, who requested anonymity because his school district prohibited its employees from publicly discussing Beggs's situation. "All this week I'm in school and kids are coming up and talking about it. I've never seen anything like this."
Beyond the politics are the young people who have been forced to participate within a discussion and scene that, by any measure, is difficult to make sense of. The coach said one of his girls quit the wrestling team rather than face Beggs, who has documented and shared the results of his testosterone use on social media. James Baudhuin, the attorney suing the UIL over Beggs's participation in the girls' division, has a daughter who had wrestled against Beggs and, at least before the suit, was among his friends.
The ordeal grew complicated, on and off the mat. Baudhuin himself said he was so conflicted that, though he'd filed a petition to keep Beggs off the mat, he would nonetheless be cheering for Beggs to win the championship.
"The 16 girls who are in [Beggs's] bracket have been put in a very, very unfair situation because of the grown-ups," Baudhuin said. "To me, this is a complete abject failure of leadership and accountability from the people who regulate sports in Texas. They're doing wrong by Mack, and not just these 15 girls but all the other girls she wrestled all year."
Then there is the experience of Beggs himself. Nearly two years ago, in a video diary explaining his transition, he discussed the sport he loved, the peace he sought and the ambition he had.
"I want to be somebody," he said long before all this; before the boos and the cameras; before his coach whisked him on and off the arena floor to minimize Beggs's visibility; and before a tournament run that sparked an arena, a state and a nation to confront a subject that previously could have been avoided. "Somebody who does something - not just a page in a book. I want to be a book."
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Beggs spent most of the weekend in a staging area, cordoned off and out of view. When it was time for him to wrestle, he jogged in from a tunnel unused by most other participants and trailed by his wrestling coach and grandmother.
"School put a safety net on us," Nancy Beggs, Mack's grandmother and legal guardian, told The Washington Post in one of several text messages. It kept other opponents, onlookers and an unusually large group of assembled media largely away. Beggs, his grandmother and coach, Travis Clark, were among those Trinity encouraged to decline interviews.
Two years ago, Beggs pointed a camera at himself and described a childhood of struggle and confusion - before, he said, discovering a word that simplified what he had experienced: transgender.
"I knew who I was," he said in the video, "but I just couldn't find words for it."
He had come to loathe his full first name, Mackenzie, and began encouraging friends and family to call him Mack because his given name "reminded me of who I was."
He cut his hair and told his grandmother that he wanted to be a boy. Nancy Beggs said Saturday that her grandson felt relief after identifying as transgender, like a longtime affliction had finally been diagnosed.
Two years ago, Mack Beggs began taking supplements to begin his physical transition. In the video, he predicted a complicated future regarding UIL rules but nonetheless declared that he wanted to go on participating in the sport he had fallen in love with. He began taking testosterone in 2015.
"Everything is great," Beggs said in the video. "The message I'm trying to send, the overall universal message I would say to y'all is don't give up and don't give up on yourself, because you don't know when you'll find yourself."
As time passed, attorney Baudhuin said, Beggs requested to wrestle against boys, though because UIL guidelines determine athletes' gender based on their birth certificate, that request was declined (citing privacy, the UIL would not discuss that request or Beggs's specific case); in a brief interview before the championship final, Nancy Beggs would not comment on whether her grandson hoped to eventually participate in the boys' division.
Last year, coaches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area began hearing about changes in Beggs's physique. He was strong and lean, and coaches noticed an unmistakable strength advantage that hadn't been there even a year earlier.
A few coaches and parents became concerned their girls wouldn't compete on equal terrain. Other coaches disagreed, more impressed by Beggs's commitment to improvement and his mental preparation. Sides were established. Discussions became increasingly tense. Questions became more difficult to answer.
Why, several girls asked the wrestling coach who had asked to remain anonymous, was it okay for Beggs to receive hormones but not them? Why endure training and risk injury if there was no discernible path to victory?
"It's a dominant American value: fairness, the equality of the pursuit of something," the coach said. ". . . There's no doubt that coaches are troubled by this; kids are troubled by it."
In December, Baudhuin said, parents began asking him to do something about this. They viewed social media posts documenting the changes to Beggs's body, and Beggs made quick work of every opponent he faced. During the state regional tournament, Beggs's two opponents forfeited rather than face him.
On behalf of the father of one opponent, Baudhuin sent a certified letter in January petitioning the UIL to move Beggs to the boys' division. This month he filed a lawsuit that asked for Beggs to be allowed to wrestle boys or removed from the championship tournament. For now, he said, the court has made no decision. The UIL issued a statement Friday that said the birth-certificate rule could change in the future (its legislative council meets in June), and Beggs's school district determined his testosterone was "well below the allowed level."
Beggs has one year of high school eligibility remaining and could face additional scrutiny and potential courtroom battles next season.
"You've got a kid who's either going to quit the sport entirely or she has got to wrestle against girls, which she doesn't want to do," said Baudhuin, who said he still refers to Beggs by the female pronoun because he struggles to see his daughter's old friend as a boy. "She's in a no-win situation."
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Lisa Latham's daughter was scheduled to face Beggs in the state tournament's opening round, and throughout the previous week Latham tried to convince Taylor, a senior at nearby Clear Spring High, to forfeit as Beggs's opponents did the previous weekend.
Taylor, though, refused to consider a forfeit. This would be her final weekend of high school competition, an appearance at the state championship alongside the state's top 16 wrestlers. Whatever the outcome, she wouldn't be giving up.
Her mother prayed for Taylor's safety and texted her inspirational songs. She called the American Civil Liberties Union the day before the state tournament to ask for an emergency injunction to keep Beggs from competing. Taylor's aunt took a different approach: offering $500 if Taylor beat Beggs on points, $1,000 for a pin.
"She's going for it. She's not quitting," Lisa Latham said. "I go from praying and, 'God, I trust you,' to being angry at myself for teaching her not to quit."
Taylor's parents arrived at Berry Center shortly before Friday's opening round. Her father, James, was confident; her mother was anxious, rocking back and forth with her hands clasped. Neither blamed Beggs, exactly, for creating this controversy; instead the Lathams were unhappy with the UIL.
"The system is set up to fail. It's failing Mack, and it's failing my daughter," Lisa said.
Beggs won on points to advance to the afternoon's quarterfinal. Lisa was relieved her daughter hadn't been injured, and James was proud that Taylor had faced Beggs despite the long odds. Both were relieved Taylor hadn't been pinned.
They walked toward the concourse, a cluster of cameras waiting for a sound byte, and eventually Taylor cut through the crowd and found her parents. Her mother wrapped Taylor in a hug, and a moment later she was off to rejoin her teammates.
Lisa shook her head.
"She didn't have a chance," she said of her daughter. "It's just not the way I saw her going out."
The boos grew louder as Beggs advanced, the chatter throughout the arena intensifying.
"Here comes the guy," one young wrestler said as Beggs stepped onto the mat for his first match Friday.
Wrestlers and relatives and fans debated the controversy in the concourses throughout the weekend; coaches and referees discussed it on the floor between matches. There were about 450 wrestlers here from roughly 240 schools, but no topic resonated through the arena like the comings and goings of Mack Beggs.
"If you really want to be a boy, why don't you wrestle the boys?" a wrestling coach said during Beggs's semifinal match.
"She'd get killed," another coach said.
A few thought the attention was a good way to pressure the UIL to reexamine its policy on gender; others believed it cast an ugly shadow over the weekend and sent mixed messages to athletes.
"If you want to play the games, you have to play it fair," said Overstreet, the wrestler's mother. "I don't care what sex you are. Don't go on the mat with enhancement if my kid can't."
Beggs walked onto the arena floor Saturday afternoon in line with the other girls wrestlers. Nancy Beggs stood near a tunnel and watched, preparing for her grandson's match - and whatever waited next.
"It's only getting started," Nancy Beggs said during a brief interview. "Mack is ready for it."
A few moments later, she walked onto the floor and joined her grandson as he warmed up.
Beggs handed Nancy his headphones and clamped on his headgear, and with Sanchez waiting on the mat, Beggs jogged onto the surface to greet her. Some members of the crowd booed. A few of them cheered. Then a boy shook hands with his female opponent, the two of them leaned in, and the referee's whistle blew.