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January 2013, Volume 19, Number 1

Midwest: Hispanic Migrants

The US population of 308 million in 2010 included 258 million residents of metro areas and 50 million residents of non-metro areas. About 80 percent of the non-metro residents were non-Hispanic white, compared to 61 percent of the metro residents.

Many non-metro areas have been losing native youth for decades, as young people who go away to college do not return. Some have begun to attract Hispanic immigrants, especially if a high-turnover plant such as a meat processing facility recruits additional workers, some of whom settle in the community. The children of settled meatpacking workers soon affect local schools and health-care facilities. There can be significant segregation even in small meatpacking towns, with Hispanic newcomers living in sections with low-cost housing.

Integrating immigrants in non-metro areas offers challenges and opportunities. The challenges include the fact that many are employed in relatively low-wage jobs, limiting their upward mobility. Their children may not receive the education they need to get better US jobs than their parents, especially if they live with other recent immigrants. On the other hand, immigrants in non-metro areas can often afford to buy homes, and Hispanic population growth in areas with declining populations allows some to take over or open businesses.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed the migration of Hispanic immigrants to Midwestern states November 9, 2012. Many Hispanics moved from elsewhere in the US to small cities such as Ottumwa, Iowa, a city of 30,000 that became 11 percent Hispanic in 2011 after Cargill rebuilt a burned pork processing plant in 2000.

Solo males in Ottumwa soon gave way to families. The city took steps to promote their integration, including opening a "New Iowan Center" at the state employment office with bilingual staff to help newcomers to fill out job applications. Cargill participates in E-Verify, and the mayor and local leaders believe that most of Ottumwa's Hispanic residents are legally in the US.

Cargill, which says that the cost of hiring and training a new employee is $5,000, tried to reduce worker turnover by supporting a local soccer league to anchor local families to the area. Cargill said that the worker turnover rate at its Ottumwa plant was 18 percent in Fall 2012.

Carr et al in "Can Immigration Save Small-Town America? Hispanic Boomtowns and the Uneasy Path to Renewal" compare two small towns that received Hispanic immigrants over the past two decades. In one, the integration of immigration aroused little controversy, while in the other town, immigration became a source of controversy.

Fremont's Ordinance No. 5165, approved by voters June 21, 2010, requires employers in the Nebraska city to use E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires and requires renters to obtain licenses from the city. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund are trying to have the occupancy portions of the ordinance declared unconstitutional.

Nebraska's Supreme Court in January 2013 decided that unauthorized workers were entitled to workers compensation after suffering on-the-job injuries. Ricardo Moyera was injured at Quality Pork International in Omaha in March 2009 and returned to work, but was fired after an audit of employment records showed he was unauthorized. Quality argued that Moyera should not receive disability payments because he could not work in the US, but the Nebraska Supreme Court argued that, if Quality did not have to make disability payments to Moyera, employers could have an incentive to hire unauthorized workers.

Tyson Foods, the largest US meat producer, in October 2012 announced a program to check the conditions of the animals raised for processing at 5,000 poultry farms, 3,000 hog farms, and 4,000 cattle farms. Tyson FarmCheck audits will be conducted by independent, third-party auditors.

Tyson Foods on October 31, 2012 agreed to pay $270,000 to 1,200 workers at its Council Bluffs processing facility for the uncompensated time they spent donning and doffing protective gear; attorneys for the workers will receive $650,000. Federal courts have held that the time workers spend donning and doffing protective clothing is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act because it is done primarily for the benefit of the employer.

Smithfield Foods, the largest US hog and pork producer, is aiming increase profits with more Smithfield-branded products. Ex-CEO Joseph W. Luter III expanded Smithfield by developing a vertically integrated firm with 16 million hogs. The company says that, because it raises many of its own pigs, it can more quickly adapt to changing consumer tastes, including meat free of antibiotics and replacing gestation crates for sows with group pens.

Arcury et al surveyed over 400 Latino poultry processing workers in western North Carolina and found that 85 percent were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). However, employers who provided PPE at no cost to workers had less-safe working climates, a counter-intuitive result.

Barcus, Holly and Laura Simmons. 2013. Ethnic Restructuring in Rural America: Migration and the Changing Faces of Rural Communities in the Great Plains. Professional Geographer. Vol 65. No 1. Pp130-152 Carr, Patrick, Daniel Lichter, and Maria Kefalas. 2012. Can Immigration Save Small-Town America? Hispanic Boomtowns and the Uneasy Path to Renewal. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. May Vol. 641 no. 1 pp 38-57. McAreavery, Ruth. 2012. Resistance or Resilience? Tracking the Pathway of Recent Arrivals to a ?New? Rural Destination. Sociologia Ruralis. Vol 52. No 4. October. Pp 488-507. Arcury, Thomas et al. 2012. Employer, use of personal protective equipment, and work safety climate: Latino poultry processing workers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Marrow, Helen. 2011. New Destination Dreaming: Immigration, Race, and Legal Status in the Rural American South. Stanford University Press
Decker, Christopher, Lucas Diamond, and Lourdes Gouveia. 2012. Economic Impact of Latin American and Other Immigrants. University of Nebraska-Omaha.

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