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January 2003, Volume 9, Number 1

Southeast, Midwest

Dalton, the carpet capital of the world in northwestern Georgia, attracted Mexican immigrants in the 1990s to staff carpet factories. Gangs and drugs accompanied the migrants, according to police, challenging rural police forces that have not usually had to deal with "big city" problems. Between 1994 and 2000, the number of Mexican citizens jailed in the United States on federal drug-trafficking charges nearly doubled, to 8,752 from 4,394.

Hispanics are 22 to 35 percent of the 45,000 residents of the greater Dalton region, and few use drugs; the users tend to be white or Black. However, unemployed Mexican immigrants are often hired as couriers to deliver drugs; if arrested, they say they do not know anything about the organization that hired them. Business leaders in Dalton have strongly supported Mexican immigrants, calling them saviors of a carpet industry weakened by aging American workers. The rising drug trade has not weakened support for immigration.

Nebraska. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 271 and meatpacker Swift & Co. (formerly ConAgra Beef), agreed to a two-year contract in Fall 2002 that will raise average $10 an hour wages by $0.35 an hour. At the Northern States Beef packing plant in Omaha, 90 percent of the 500 workers are immigrants, and the contract includes funds for language and citizenship training. Workers voted 251 to 126 for the UFCW in May 2002; the organizing drive began in June 2000.

In August 2002, production workers at Nebraska Beef Ltd.'s Omaha plant voted 452 to 345 against union affiliation.

North Carolina. The number of Limited English Proficient students in North Carolina rose from 8,900 in 1993 to 52,000 in 2002, and school districts are finding it hard to attract teachers certified to teach English as a second language, especially in rural areas.

The federal Office of Bilingual Education, renamed the Office of English Language Acquisition, provided $665 million in FY02 grants to help school districts around the US to subsidize teachers in college or taking night classes to receive E.S.L. or bilingual licenses.

Aguirre International is conducting a $500,000 four-year, USDA-funded study of Arvin and five other rural communities being changed by immigration: Adel, Georgia; Newton Grove, North Carolina; Marshal, Minnesota; Marshal Town, Iowa; and Woodburn, Oregon. Most of the Arvin immigrants are from Guanajuato, Mexico.

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