Part 2 of the NY Times series, Remade in America continues looking at the plight of the newest immigrants. According to the NY Times:

The United States has experienced the greatest surge in immigration since the early 20th century, with one in five residents a recent immigrant or a close relative of one.

The series moves from Prince William County to Morristown, Tennessee where the source of income comes from the furniture industry and the poultry industry. The industrial city in eastern Tennessee has seen a huge increase in immigration the since around 2000. The population is now about 10% Latino, some legal and some illegal. It is estimated that about half of the Latino population is here illegally.

The recession has hit this area very hard. The resources available to citizens and legal residents do not exist for the undocumented immigrants who must fend for themselves. Most help comes from local churches. Remarkably, most do not want to leave. Most do not want to return to their country of origin (most in Morristown are from Mexico) because they feel their country holds nothing for them.

Instead, as the recession deepens, illegal immigrants who have settled into American towns are receding from community life. They are clinging to low-wage jobs, often working more hours for less money, and taking whatever work they can find, no matter the conditions.

Despite the mounting pressures, many of the illegal immigrants are resisting leaving the country. After years of working here, they say, they have homes and education for their children, while many no longer have a stake to return to in their home countries.

“Most of the things I got are right here,” Mr. López said in English, which he taught himself to speak. “I got my family, my wife, my kids. Everything is here.”

This area has a 2-tiered blue collar system.

Hispanic immigrants — many hired through temporary staffing agencies that offered no vacation pay or health coverage — were on the bottom, in jobs where they faced little competition from Americans.

The audio slide show summarizes the plight of several different immigrants. Strange how things change when we put a face on a situation.

32 Thoughts to “A Slippery Place in the US Work Force”

  1. Alanna

    Some might not leave because of tightened border security, they know coming back will be extremely difficult. Don’t everybody start screaming that I am not for border security, all I’m saying is that securing the border has had perhaps unintended or unforseen consequences. To what extent has this Mexican drug cartel turf war been a result of closing off entry points into the country? Just a couple things to think about, again not saying border security is bad. It’s just an observation.

  2. Second-Alamo

    Simple solution: We check the people coming IN to the US, and the Mexicans check the people coming OUT of the US. That way illegal US immigrants who are legal Mexican citizens can return to Mexico without fear of prosecution.

  3. Poor Richard

    There isn’t a McD’s or BK in the PWC area that doesn’t appear
    to be staffed by primarily individuals who don’t speak English
    as a first language. As a youth I worked fast food and it is
    hard work with low pay and and plenty of bull (remember Roy Rodgers
    and the required “Howdy,partner” greeting?). The question is how
    – based on average hours and pay – can you afford to live
    in this area? Where do the workers live? Receive health care? Etc.
    How must workers live to make “the nut” and what impact does that
    have on the rest of the community?

  4. Rick Bentley

    “They are clinging to low-wage jobs, often working more hours for less money, and taking whatever work they can find, no matter the conditions. ”

    I doin’t mean to sound like a xenophobic alarmust, but isn’t this when you think about it basically taking America towatds third world conditions? Or towards a caste society?

  5. Rick Bentley

    boy I need to cut down on the typos, sorry.

  6. Poor Richard

    “Due to riskier and more costly border crossings, many Mexicans
    living in the U.S. without papers, rarely chance coming home.
    I visited the small towns of Mexico’s Oaxaca state ….
    Emigration is changing the societal structure here. Without men
    around, machismo is giving way to a more matriarchial arrangement
    known as ‘pura mujer’ – only women.”
    National Geographic (April 2009

  7. Moon-howler

    Has it occurred to anyone that its going to be someone? Some group of people is going to be taking these jobs. Most teenagers around here think they are too good to work at McDonalds. Plus we want teenagers in school or at least the state of Virginia does, until age 18.

    SA, How do you propose getting Mexico to cooperate? It sounds like Mexico is about ready to implode. The rich doen’t even seem to be doing too well because of all the kidnappings. Armed guards for your children if you are wealthy? Even the wealthy want to live here.

  8. Moon-howler

    Very interesting, Poor Richard. Did someone decide that this was better or worse for Mexican society?

  9. Alanna

    A single mother with an immigrant husband raised a bi-racial child who has become the President of the United States. So, I’m not concerned about a caste society.

    Immigration levels should tie-in with job creation or in our current condition, job loss rates. Altering the 14th Amendment should be considered as well because under current conditions deporting the parents of US Citizens for future re-entry is a spectacular waste of energy and resources.

    Again, in the past, people would have returned to from whence they came until economic conditions improved especially when they had some savings to live on in their home countries but now they seem to be hunkering down here. Now, too, they might own their homes which adds another dimension to our economic situation.

  10. Poor Richard

    Interesing piece by George Will in today’s WaPo op/ed
    – Headlined – “Kidnapped by the Cartels” –

    In part – “To the problem of reducing regular crime – homicides
    in Phoenix were down 24 percent in 2008 – Police Chief Jack Harris
    has applied proven methods. They include the nimble deployment
    of manpower to high-crime hot spots, close relations between
    police and neighborhoods, and intense concentration on career
    criminals who commit a large majority of the crimes.” (Note
    that the killing of three Oakland policemen last night was by
    such a violent career criminal on parole.)
    “Phoenix’s familiar sorts of crimes have not much to do with
    most of the city’s immigrants, legal or illegal. They commit
    a smaller percentage of the crime (10 percent) than they are of
    the city’s population (24) percent. But the lurid crimes
    that are giving this city an unmerited reputation as dangerous
    represent the seepage of Mexican cartels into this city.”
    Harris says for now Washington “has turned immigration policy
    over to Mexican thugs”.

  11. TWINAD

    Poor Richard,

    I read that piece, too. Very interesting. I know it won’t happen, but I do think that legalizing drugs has its merits. Of course, downside as well.

  12. Poor Richard

    My observation is that excessive macho culture can hurt a community,
    but it is often tempered by women – especially by mature
    respected individuals. Notice how many frat houses
    are required to have a “mother” in their building?
    (A story from Africa last year that a group of young bull
    elephants savaged their range until older elephants were finally brought
    in to temper their behavior and teach them the ways of a
    “proper herd”)

  13. Moon-howler

    Great analogy, Poor Richard. Matriarchs often tame the savage beast. Many young males will do all sorts of things until they think their mothers or grandmothers are looking or will find out.

  14. Second-Alamo

    Side note: There is a half mile long road on the way to my daughter’s house that had between twelve and fourteen for sale signs about a month ago. Now there is only one, and the houses are being improved upon with new siding, painting, and lawn work. It appears that we’ve turned a corner as far as I can tell from that tiny sample. I actually felt uplifted instead of depressed by driving through that area, and there was only one house that still had an overflow of cars on the property.

  15. Segundo Alamo,

    How nice that the ethnic cleansing is working out for you and your pocketbook.

  16. Moon-howler

    SA, does your daughter live locally?

  17. YankeeForever

    I’m having the same experience in my neighborhood, Second Alamo, just within the past few weeks–just two houses left to be occupied on my street. And BTW, the new occupants are not white, Mackie.

  18. Yankee,

    As the economy collapses all those new homeowners may come to regret their decision to invest in American real estate that will continue to depreciate for at least another two years.

  19. Moon-howler

    How does that make them any different than the thousands of people whose homes have already depreciated?

  20. Second-Alamo


    My daughter lives in PWC and is well aware of the change in surroundings that have occurred over the past several years. I’m just glad for her that the surrounding area seems to be improving. We put down roots here many years ago, and would hate to see it all go to hell because of a lower class of people moving in. Respect for the community is all that’s needed from any new home owners no matter where they come from, and PWC will make it through just fine.

  21. YankeeForever

    Mackie, I was simply addressing your “ethnic cleansing” slap to SA. My neighborhood is probably about 1/2 “brown” at this point, and we’re good with that. We don’t care. The long-vacant houses are finally occupied, and the properties are starting to look almost as nice as when we first moved here. But I guess, in your world, behind every silver lining there is a cloud.

  22. I hardly think that a ‘prettier neighborhood’ could ever justify the ethnic cleansing policy that was enacted. There’s something really wrong with that picture.

  23. You’ve got a one-track mind, Mackie…what there is left of it.

  24. Second-Alamo

    Sounds like Mackie would be right at home in a Mexican border town. What say we all pitch in and be a one way ticket for him? He has no idea how ugly some people can make a neighborhood. Talk about depressing home values, when the economy recovers then it will be the ‘prettier neighborhood’ that increases in value the fastest. Welcome to reality Mackie!

  25. Starryflights

    The NY Times article does a very good job of demonstrating why we need comprehensive immigration reform now.

  26. Moon-howler

    There is a front page story today in the NY Times about the growing violence from drug wars spilling over into the United States. Tucson was one of the cities mentioned.
    I don’t think Mackie would like living there.

    Starry, I agree.

  27. Lucky Duck

    I thought the article was very interesting and informative. I took the statement below from the article. Its from the Pew Hispanic Center and the last line really surprised me. Nearly 1/2 of all foreign-born Hispanics in the United States are illegal immigrants. This is very applicable to Prince William as our greatest influx of Hispanic population has been in the last eight to 9 years and the vast majority have been adults, meaning they were foreign born.

    “Nationwide, Hispanic immigrants, both legal and illegal, saw greater job loss in 2008 than did Hispanics born in the United States or black workers, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Nearly half of foreign-born Hispanics are illegal immigrants, according to the center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.”

  28. Alanna

    What ‘lower class’ are you referring to? It seems to me that homes selling dirt cheap wouldn’t necessarily attract owners intending to occupy the home versus rent the home? I don’t know, it just doesn’t sit well with me.

    Again, “we”(not me but the US in general) are responsible for the demand of these drugs, “we”(again us the US) are supplying the weapons which are fueling the bloodshed, and to me it’s appears partly driven by increased border security on the US side.

  29. Moon-howler

    I am not ready to shoulder the blame for the drug wars along the border. When do those perpetrating the violence take on some of the blame? Canada is also suffering from violence, according to the article. That cannot all be attributed to a border issue since they do not share borders with anyone but us.

    How about thugs and criminals being the problem and the governments of Mexico and the US not being able to control them?

  30. Moon-howler :
    I am not ready to shoulder the blame for the drug wars along the border. When do those perpetrating the violence take on some of the blame? Canada is also suffering from violence, according to the article. That cannot all be attributed to a border issue since they do not share borders with anyone but us.
    How about thugs and criminals being the problem and the governments of Mexico and the US not being able to control them?

    Perhaps we all need to shoulder more blame.

    For if the war on drugs is actually about drugs why aren’t we hearing about all those daring police raids on the dorm rooms of all those pretty white students in ivy league universities across the country. Those miscreants are literally swimming in drugs. After all, who else can afford the expense at this time?

    How can the district attorneys and chiefs of police fail 100% of the time to recognize the drug haven right under their noses?

  31. Moon-howler

    I am more concerned over the feds and the Mexican govt. not being able to control thugs and criminals than I am about drugs. So why are the pretty white students miscreants? Are all the students in ivy league universities white? Could have fooled me.

  32. YankeeForever

    Are college kids “swimming in drugs”? Funny, the driven, goal-oriented young adults who go to college with my daughters don’t give any impression that they are drug users. But then, again, I don’t live in the dorm with them as you seem to, Mackie.

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