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Illegals are migrating from NC to "home".

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Immigrant exodus: Lack of jobs has Mexicans headed home

Two Hispanic men wait to board a bus outside El Ranchero Mexican grocery in Lumberton.

By Francis X. Gilpin

Staff writer

RAEFORD -- Arizona officials say they are overrun with Mexicans. In Hoke County, though, Mexicans seem to be heading home - and some business owners miss them.

Raeford mobile home park owner Isidoro Basurto said scores of Mexican families have re-crossed the border in the past year, resigned to tougher immigration enforcement and a bad economy north of the Rio Grande.

"I can tell you, 99 percent of the people that move from this mobile home park, they go back to Mexico," Basurto said.

The Mexican departures may be subtly reshaping the demographics of Hoke County and other North Carolina communities where, until recently, Hispanic immigrants were recruited for demanding but low-wage jobs in farm fields and meat-packing plants - jobs that Americans have shunned.

Business owners who cater to Hispanics bemoan the slumping sales that have followed the sad farewells of customers.

"They usually come by and say bye," said Raeford mobile-phone retailer Xiomara Ruckel, who sells 80 percent of her calling plans to Spanish-speaking people.

El Ranchero, a Mexican grocery store in Lumberton, used to be a well-known spot for immigrants to find anything from fresh produce to the latest Mexican music CDs.

Now it's the place to buy a one-way ticket back to Mexico - with buses departing seven days a week.

"Nobody wants to give us steady work," Dagoberto Garcia said in Spanish as he waited with four other men under the shade of an awning. "For many years, places like the meat-processing plants and farms welcomed us with open arms. Today, they won't even let us on the premises to apply for work.

"I'm going home and coming back when it gets better."

Store owner Enrique Mendoza said the lack of work for undocumented immigrants at the meat plants owned by Mountaire Farms LLC, House of Raeford Farms Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc. has made it impossible for the men to stay.

"I've sold thousands of bus tickets over the last two years," Mendoza said. "Many of these people were customers for over a decade."

Ricardo Herrera, a Mexican from the state of Guanajuato, said about 75 immigrants worked at his last job on Fort Bragg. Now there are fewer than 20, Herrera said as he waited for the bus.

His employer reduced wages over time and eventually let Herrera and his Mexican co-workers go.

"I'm just looking for work," Herrera said. "It's here, but they will only employ us for a short time. I can't stay here without steady employment."

In addition to fickle employers and a wobbly economy, immigrant laborers such as Garcia and Herrara say controversial deportation efforts, including the 287(g) program, are prompting them to leave North Carolina. The 287(g) program is named after a section of the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

Supporters of a crackdown on illegal immigration hope 287(g) and other U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiatives will create jobs for unemployed Americans.

In response, however, employers have chosen other ways to find cheap foreign labor.

Mountaire Farms, which runs a large poultry-processing plant in Lumber Bridge, is said to have hired a contractor to supply immigrant workers from Burma and Thailand.

The contractor provides transportation to the plant, meals and living quarters for the workers, according to an official at the plant.

Michael Tirrell, vice president of human resources and business services for Mountaire Farms, would not directly address whether Burmese or Thai workers have taken jobs once held by Mexicans.

"We don't necessarily target any particular gender or country of origin," Tirrell said. "We need good workers with proper documentation. Whoever is qualified, we'll consider for a job."

Earlier this month, the Lumber Bridge plant had 107 vacancies out of more than 2,000 approved positions, Tirrell said.

Mountaire Farms uses labor agencies to fill some jobs, Tirrell acknowledged, and those contractors could provide temporary workers with room and board and rides.

"We don't perform those functions," Tirrell said. "But we know that there are labor agencies that do."

Hispanic advocates said they are witnessing what amounts to a widespread repatriation to Mexico.

"We're shooting ourselves in the foot because the people that are leaving are the good, honest, hard-working, God-fearing family people," said Lucy Vasquez, executive director of Amigos International in Wilmington.

"Who's staying? The people who could care less if they get arrested," said Vasquez, whose agency does work in Bladen and Sampson counties.

Trailer park owner Basurto used to have a waiting list of prospective tenants, mostly Mexicans who worked at the nearby House of Raeford turkey-processing plant. Now, almost a quarter of his 80 mobile homes are vacant.

Raeford Mayor John McNeill has noticed a difference in his city.

"Particularly on weekends when you go into the grocery store," the mayor said. "I don't see as many Hispanics."

Government statistics that show Mexicans disappearing from local payrolls are hard to come by.

Kathy Hinshaw, Latino outreach coordinator for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Center for New North Carolinians, said confirming a return of Mexicans to their homeland, even after 2010 census numbers come in, will be difficult.

"It is hard to determine the percentage that we're losing because, from the beginning, we don't have exact numbers," Hinshaw said.

Tony Asion, former executive director of El Pueblo in Raleigh, said Mexicans have been historically underrepresented in the census.

With many undocumented workers unwilling to stand up and be counted, proving a reverse migratory pattern from North Carolina to Mexico is problematic.

Most employers are required to break down the ethnic and racial makeup of their work forces every year for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But Justine S. Lisser, a senior lawyer for the commission, said that information is seldom made public.

David S. Witter, manager of corporate sustainability and communications at House of Raeford, said the company does not disclose that kind of information either.

But residents say there is no denying that the faces of workers during shift changes at House of Raeford have gone from mostly brown to mostly black.

"It's dropped dramatically," McNeill said of Hispanic employment at House of Raeford.

Basurto, who runs a cafeteria at the plant, said the personnel office began getting rid of Mexicans after a 2008 U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raid at a sister plant in South Carolina.

House of Raeford settled criminal charges of deliberately hiring undocumented workers last year by paying a $1.5million fine and agreeing to closer monitoring by ICE in Raeford and at seven other plants.

Basurto has felt the fallout in the cafeteria. Basurto said he has gone from selling $2,000 worth of Mexican food a day to about $200.

During a recent lunch break, a procession of black workers were seen walking from the plant to a nearby convenience store. Basurto said he is considering more Southern comfort food for his menu.

Not all Hispanic advocates believe North Carolina is losing Mexicans in large numbers.

Asion said he recently talked with the Mexican consulate in Raleigh. "All the indications that they have is that folks are not leaving in droves," Asion said. "They're kind of toughing it out and seeing if things will pick up. Some have left, of course, and some have arrived. But it's not the massive exodus that everybody expected."

Sister Jeanne Morgan, pastoral administrator at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Raeford, said fewer Mexicans attend a 9 a.m. Mass in Spanish on Sundays.

The nun attributes the loss of Mexican parishioners to hiring practices at House of Raeford and Mountaire Farms.

Yet Morgan said other parishes are gaining Hispanics. And baptismal records at hers show more Puerto Ricans from Fort Bragg joining the congregation, she said.

Morgan speculated that the disappearance of Mexicans may just be peculiar to Hoke County because the meat plants are close by.

State figures show the Hispanic student body in Hoke County public schools increased by 11.3 percent between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. But the growth in Hispanic enrollment slowed to 5.2percent this year.

Year-over-year increases in Hispanic enrollment continued unabated in Robeson and Sampson counties.

The CommWell Health chain of community clinics in Bladen, Sampson and nearby counties is treating fewer migrant farm workers. Victoria Martin, marketing and public relations manager for what used to be called the Tri-County Community Health Council, said the clinic has seen modest decreases in migrant patients for three consecutive years.

Like Hoke County, Bladen County reported a slowdown in Hispanic public school enrollment, from an 8 percent increase in 2009 to only 2 percent this year.

Bladen County is home to a big Smithfield hog-processing plant. In 2006, about 2,300 of the plant's 5,000 employees were Hispanic. Two years later, there were about 1,000 fewer Hispanics working at the Tar Heel plant.

Many Hispanics cleared out after Smithfield began rechecking their Social Security numbers and ICE raided the slaughterhouse, both in 2006.

Blacks took the place of many Hispanics. Black workers went from 41percent of the Tar Heel work force in 2006 to 54percent in 2008.

Smithfield spokesman Dennis Pittman referred a request for an updated ethnic and racial breakdown of the Tar Heel work force to a plant personnel manager, who said he wasn't authorized to release that information.

Although the same Mexican-to-black employment transformation has taken place at House of Raeford, census estimates have yet to reflect an outflow of Hispanics from Hoke County - and may never.

"First of all," Asion said, "you had to have the original statistics when they were here to find out how many there were."

The latest census estimates are for 2008, when Raeford business proprietors say they first noticed Mexicans heading home.

Hoke County's Hispanic population grew 11 percent between 2006 and 2008, according to the estimates. The overall county population rose less than 3percent in that time.

Merchants recall 2008 as the year when Mexicans and Central American immigrants started to vanish from their stores.

Jesus Jose Rivera said sales at his Raeford convenience store have plummeted 90 percent in the two years. Rivera blames job losses at Mountaire Farms.

Congress needs to step in, Rivera said.

"If they don't fix this right now, they are losing the best workers," he said.

Another store owner, Danilo Artiga, said 800 Mexicans worked at House of Raeford when Hispanic employment peaked in the middle of the past decade. Their absence is noticeable in Raeford today, he said.

Rivera agreed.

"If you go to town, it looks like a ghost town," he said.

Mayor McNeill said a popular Mexican restaurant a block off Main Street has closed. "It was a disappointment to a lot of us because it was a pretty good place to eat," he said.

Sister Morgan said Raeford is losing more than authentic south-of-the-border cuisine.

"We lose a strong flavor of another culture here," she said. "It's really important that people learn to accept other cultures and work with other cultures. We all came from someplace else."

Staff writer Ed Panas contributed to this story.

http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2010/05/23/996860?sac=Home

Staff writer Francis X. Gilpin can be reached at gilpinf@fayobserver.com or 486-3587.


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If you read this article, it is clear your effort to get Americans low paying, highly unskilled work by getting Mexicans to 'go home' is not paying much by way of dividends. But that might be too much to ask of you.

Go go Danno Logic!


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Filed: IR-1/CR-1 Visa Country: China
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Hey Danno - thanks for posting this !!


Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

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No, you're not.
You noticed the "coming back when it gets better" too, si man? And, how about just below that -- were illegals working at Fort Bragg?!

And, are ALL of the returning workers of illegal status, or are some not? The article was not entirely clear, at least to me upon initial semicursory reading.


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What I noticed is that the departure of undocumented migrants is not producing jobs for US citizens. The slack is being taken up by importing different cheap labour.


Refusing to use the spellchick!

I have put you on ignore. No really, I have, but you are still ruining my enjoyment of this site. .

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What I noticed is that the departure of undocumented migrants is not producing jobs for US citizens. The slack is being taken up by importing different cheap labour.

who:

1. have a criminal background check

2. get a medical exam

3. pay taxes

4. most likely aren't collecting welfare


"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies."

Senator Barack Obama
Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt
March 16, 2006



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John - and have a agricultural worker visa issued by the US Embassy, as well.


Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

-=-=-=-=-=R E A D ! ! !=-=-=-=-=-

Whoa Nelly ! Want NVC Info? see http://www.visajourney.com/wiki/index.php/NVC_Process

Congratulations on your approval ! We All Applaud your accomplishment with Most Wonderful Kissies !

 

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Which begs the question, if you do not care that the work is being done by migrants, why do you care where the migrants come from? Why is it not possible for Mexicans to obtain temporary work permits to do the same work?


Refusing to use the spellchick!

I have put you on ignore. No really, I have, but you are still ruining my enjoyment of this site. .

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Why is it not possible for Mexicans to obtain temporary work permits to do the same work?

I think you should ask the illegal immigrants that one.

Edited by Moonandstar

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

-Benjamin Franklin

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What does "home" mean as opposed to home?


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Which begs the question, if you do not care that the work is being done by migrants, why do you care where the migrants come from? Why is it not possible for Mexicans to obtain temporary work permits to do the same work?

most of the anti illegal immigrant crowd don't care where the workers came from. we just care that they are legally here. if people want or need to come here to work & provide for their familes, let them. but, they need to respect & follow the laws of the country they are visiting for work. if they aren't willing to do so, they should not be there.

i believe it is possible to obtain the permits, its just not expedient or convienent enough to make it cost effective for the employer or the migrant worker. which does need to be worked on.


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Which begs the question, if you do not care that the work is being done by migrants, why do you care where the migrants come from? Why is it not possible for Mexicans to obtain temporary work permits to do the same work?

please not confuse 'migrant' with 'illegal alient' - there's a vast difference. This newspaper report drones on about illegal aliens, not 'migrant workers'.

A migrant worker has legal papers to work, if from other country. MANY migrant workers are US Citizens, never need papers.

Edited by Darnell

Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

-=-=-=-=-=R E A D ! ! !=-=-=-=-=-

Whoa Nelly ! Want NVC Info? see http://www.visajourney.com/wiki/index.php/NVC_Process

Congratulations on your approval ! We All Applaud your accomplishment with Most Wonderful Kissies !

 

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what permits?

Exactly. The issue is that despite its proximity and the willingness of the labour force in Mexico to work for low wages almost anywhere, the availability of permits to do just that is non existent - hence they come here undocumented. Whether or not it is a good thing to allow immigrants to take on low pay jobs is another matter entirely but what is at issue here is the lack of a legal route for labourers who have historically temporarily migrated to the US to take on roles that USC"s prefer not to do.

Edited by Madame Cleo

Refusing to use the spellchick!

I have put you on ignore. No really, I have, but you are still ruining my enjoyment of this site. .

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