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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

State Briefs

California. Ron Prince, who co-authored Proposition 187, approved by California voters 59 to 41 percent in 1994, has abandoned plans to put a new Proposition 187 on the November 2000 ballot. Prince complained that conservative legal organizations did not help him to draft the new initiative and that several Republican representatives refused to give his effort any public support.

The new Proposition 187 would have amended the state Constitution to force California to abide by federal immigration law, prohibiting the Legislature from approving bills that provide benefits to illegal immigrants.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the US with 711,187 students, needs to build one new school every two weeks to accommodate rising student numbers— up about 20,000 a year. The student population in Los Angeles is growing primarily because of immigration. About 70 percent of the students are Hispanic, and almost half speak limited English.

Arizona. Arizona activists are asking the state Legislature to permit unauthorized migrants to obtain driver's licenses. According to supporters of SB 1241, unauthorized migrants who cannot obtain driver's licenses also cannot obtain auto insurance, so that when they have accidents, the other party must bear the full costs.

Arizona requires persons applying for new or renewal licenses to prove their presence in the United States is "authorized under federal law." The number of driver's license applications fell by 160,000 in 1996, the year Arizona introduced this requirement.

New York. In March 2000, a jury found that several New York City police officers lied about their involvement in the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima inside the 70th precinct bathroom. The judge can sentence the seven to up to five years in prison.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and the city's Police Department came under attack as yet another unarmed Black man, a Haitian-American, was killed by undercover police in March 2000.

Despite a rise in education and employment that would have been expected to reduce poverty, the percentage of families with children in New York City who had incomes under the federal poverty line of $13,133 for a family of three in 1998 was 32 percent. For more information: http://www.cssny.org/publications/book-low-income.htm

Florida. There are an estimated 500,000 English-speaking Caribbean immigrants in South Florida. The 300,000 Jamaicans among them are sometimes termed Ja-mericans.

Indiana. A series of articles in the Indianapolis Star profiled the towns of Delphi and Logansport in Indiana. Each town has a meatpacking plant, Delphi is home to Indiana Packers and there is an IBP Inc. meatpacking plant in Logansport, a city of 5,000 that is 20 miles away. Both companies depend heavily on Mexican workers to work on the cutting floor of their meatpacking plants. IBP employs recruiters in Mexico, although most of the employees from outside Indiana learn about jobs in Indiana by word of mouth. Plant officials believe that more than 50 percent of IBP's 1,650 employees are Hispanic and Indiana Packers report that between 30 and 40 percent of their 1,300 workers are Hispanic.

An undocumented worker at the Indiana Packers plant said she believed that the company preferred undocumented workers because they did not complain when asked to stand for their eight-hour shift, with one 15-minute break in the morning and a 30-minute lunch period. Every eight to 12 seconds, another carcass or another piece of meat has to be cut, sliced or trimmed on the disassembly line.

Changes in meatpacking workforces are soon evident in schools. In Logansport, 25 Hispanic children, most Mexicans, enrolled in the local school system in 1996 after IBP reopened the packing plant. Teachers say they were overwhelmed by the task of teaching so many children who knew so little English. In the 1999-2000 school year, there are 450 Hispanic students enrolled in the district's seven schools, which have a total 3,900 students. An estimated $1 million is spent to provide special instruction and services for the students in Logansport. The schools also receive $325,000 in federal migrant education funds, since the ME program defines meatpacking jobs as agricultural, making the 363 children of meatpacking workers who moved into the area eligible for supplemental services.

The Justice Department's Community Relations Office has helped to mediate several disputes between immigrants and established residents. For more information: http://www.starnews.com/news/citystate/0405st_mexico.html

Minnesota. The Hmong, an ethnic minority in Laos that sided with the US during the Vietnam War, were accepted as refugees in the US after the Communists prevailed in Southeast Asia. When they arrived in the US, the Hmong were dispersed. However, many Hmong are migrating from where they were settled to St Paul, Minnesota, responding to state policies designed to speed their employment and integration, leading Hmong to say: "Minnesota: cold winter, warm heart." There are about 15,000 Hmong in St Paul and 60,000 in Minneapolis.

Many Hmong originally settled in Fresno county, California, but their number dropped from 35,000 in 1998 to 22,000 in 2000, largely because unemployment remains over 10 percent and new welfare rules limit assistance. Hmong in Minnesota also have above-average levels of welfare dependency, and there are Hmong gangs.

Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly is considering an Equal Justice Bill, HB 1228, that would require courts in the state to set uniform standards for interpreters and print certain documents, such as court notices, subpoenas and summonses, in Spanish or any other language that is spoken by more than one percent of Maryland's population. The bill is similar to laws in California and a few other states that make uniform translation services available.

Southeast. Siler City, a town of 5,000 in North Carolina, has been transformed by immigration, as chicken-processing plants recruiting workers in Florida set migration networks in motion that now bring workers directly from Mexico and Guatemala to mid-North Carolina. North Carolina has many cities and towns that have seen an influx of Hispanic migrants. Between 1990 and 1998, the Hispanic population in North Carolina grew 110 percent; 102 percent in Georgia and 90 percent in Tennessee. Every Southern state except West Virginia has experienced a growth in its Hispanic population.

Eighty percent of the workers cutting chickens at the two poultry plants in Siler City are recent arrivals from Mexico, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Some local residents complain about the additional education, health, and social service costs associated with the immigrant influx; others note that the immigrants sustain local industries and thereby preserve jobs for local workers. The majority of K-12 children are Latinos, as are the majority of maternity patients in local hospitals. Local residents complain that many immigrants drive without licenses and insurance.

David Duke, president of the National Organization for European American Rights, was the featured speaker at a February 2000 anti-immigrant rally in Siler City. He said that his organization would help the INS round up unauthorized Mexican migrants: "The immigrants are not hard to find, but if your agency needs help in locating them, a number of local residents have offered to volunteer their time to help show you the way."

Hall County, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, Georgia, has also been transformed by Latino immigrants who found work in the poultry plants of the area. The Hispanic population of the 115,000-resident county is estimated to be 10,000 to 52,000; in one elementary school, 90 percent of the children are Hispanic. Law enforcement agencies are hiring Spanish-speaking officers and government workers are being encouraged to learn conversational Spanish. Georgia is one of the few US states that has been adding manufacturing jobs. About 8,200 textile and apparel jobs paying an average of $8.70 an hour were lost in 1998-99, but the electronics jobs that replaced them paid higher average wages.


Jennifer Mena, "New Effort to Deny Services to Illegal Immigrants Fizzles," Los Angles Times, April 22, 2000.