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April 2003, Volume 9, Number 2

Southeast: Migrants

Georgetown, Delaware has only about 6,000 residents, but they include an ever-increasing number of Hispanics, largely because of immigration to fill poultry processing jobs. Families are settling, having US-born children, reducing prospects for leaving the US- a third of the K-2 pupils at Georgetown Elementary School are Latinos.

North Carolina had one of the nation's fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the 1990s, and many moved to smaller cities that had meat or poultry processing plants. Zebulon, a town of 4,100 that is18 miles outside Raleigh, saw its Hispanic population increase from 17 to 348, according to the census, but local officials say there are 1,000 or more Hispanics. There are sometimes tensions with Blacks that can fester because there are few forums for communication.

Hispanics are changing the face of Kentucky; most local advocates estimate there are at least twice the 60,000 Hispanic residents that the 2000 Census estimated in Kentucky. Most residents consider the Hispanic immigrants to be hard-working; 25 percent have incomes below the poverty level, compared to 28 percent of Blacks; the white poverty rate is 15 percent.

Local observers say that the Hispanic influx has quickly moved through several stages: solo men employed in seasonal tobacco jobs, then poultry processing and construction, as well as family unification, and now hotels, restaurants and similar service jobs, with some Hispanics opening businesses. Newcomers replace those who leave entry-level jobs: Kentucky's Department of Agriculture, estimates that Hispanics are 80 percent of the state's 25,000 tobacco workers.

Wayne Tompkins, "Hispanics changing area profile," Courier-Journal, March 2, 2003. . Steve Miller, "Hispanic surge creates tensions with blacks," Washington Times, February 24, 2003. Jerry Kammer, "Changing face of rural America," San Diego Union Tribune, February 17, 2003.

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