Local News

Rough economy sending immigrants packing

Posted March 25, 2009
Updated March 26, 2009

— The number of undocumented Hispanic/Latino immigrants has dropped by more than 1.5 million nationwide since August 2007, according to the national Center for Immigration Studies.

In North Carolina, the estimated decline in that period is around 140,000 of the estimated 380,000 illegal immigrants in the state.

The Exodus Illegal immigrants on decline in N.C.

Of that number, a little more than 3,000 immigrants were deported last year as part of the federal 287(g) immigration program, which allows local law enforcement agencies to identify illegal immigrants arrested on local charges.

But the driving force behind the decline, the Latino community says, is, in part, the souring national and state economies.

North Carolina's unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, but Latino advocates believe that number is significantly understated since illegal workers are not counted.

With limited jobs, primarily in construction, undocumented workers find themselves unemployed and with no money.

Qué Pasa, a statewide Spanish-language newspaper, first began reporting on what it calls "the immigrant exodus" more than a year ago.

"We find out the recession hit, first, the Hispanic market, the Latino market," said Alejandro Manrique, the newspaper's executive editor.

Local agents who sell bus tickets say they believe more people would like to return to their home countries, but they can't afford to so.

One woman, for example, has been in the United States for two years. She says she plans to return with her 1-year-old twins to her home in Mexico. She and her husband have been struggling to feed the children since he lost his construction job several months ago.

Her husband will most likely follow in a month or two, she says.

There are at least three bus companies that have daily routes from Raleigh to Mexico with about a dozen stops throughout the state.

While business is surging for them, other area businesses are seeing a drop in revenue.

Leonor Martinez, who owns a salon, says her shop is making half the profit it did a year ago.

"Today, I cut someone's hair, and they're leaving on Sunday," Martinez said. "It's been hard, but I don't want to give up."

Joel Lopez, who runs Mi Paisano, a grocery store in Cary that caters to a Latino clientele, believes he has to hold on long enough for the economy to rebound.

"As soon as it picks up, I think people will start migrating back," he said. "Migrant workers tend to go with the supply-and-demand of the work."

208 Comments

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  • ifcdirector Mar 27, 6:54 p.m.

    Hopefully it will also be increasingly safer to drive on the roadways of this state.

  • scientistjo Mar 27, 6:26 p.m.

    Wow. So Mexico's economy is better than ours?

  • braddyg Mar 27, 5:51 p.m.

    "Why is everybody talking about Latinos only and yet illegals come from every part of the world but America."

    Maybe because the story is specifically referring to Latino immigrants.

    "OTOH, that's just one more reason more Americans should learn to speak languages other than English. Then you could communicate either directly or through a more easily available interpreter."

    Right, so we should learn to speak Spanish because it will make it easier to converse with the criminal immigrants who want and need our services?

    "there ARE plenty of American citizens who will do the work that illigals do. BUT... They will expect double the pay, full benifits (insurance,401k,dental,vacation & sick pay) they will sue, or file for workmans comp every time that they pull a muscle, or break a nail."

    And they'll all be paying taxes, not to mention pumping money into the local economy (instead of sending back to the third world). Even if costs did go up, the benefits would outweigh the costs.

  • ibbott41 Mar 27, 5:07 p.m.

    Constructions sites, big companies in Chatham, Lee and Harnett Counties should be investigated. Or, we will make their names public. Lee County has more than its share of illegal aliens. And all of them are working. How do you explain that in Lee County the unemployment is the highest in North Carolina?

  • teacher-mom Mar 27, 4:39 p.m.

    I wish everyone could have a decent job with benefits.

  • Piny tek Mar 27, 4:20 p.m.

    Why is everybody talking about Latinos only and yet illegals come from every part of the world but America.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Mar 27, 4:09 p.m.

    What I dont understand is how a person can go to the Social Services, and receive benefits without having a social security number or any "legal" documentation??? At that time, shouldnt they be sent packing? WOW

  • BeenHereSince67 Mar 27, 3:21 p.m.

    Immigration enforcement MUST come to the construction industry. Back in the mid 80s, one of this areas biggest building companies sent buses to the mexican border to bring 'them' here to work for 1/3 to 1/2 what our local folks were getting paid. The locals were told they could keep their jobs if they'd take these huge pay cuts. Most couldn't live on what they were offered. The situation is even worse now, and the quality of the work being done by illegals is just not as good as 'our' folks can do it. These good old boys that many of you call rednecks have had their quality of living smashed flat, but unfortunately lots of us better off folks don't seem to care. Contractors aren't telling the truth when they say that the price of housing would go up if they couldn't use 'cheaper' labor. The price of housing only gone up and the contractors got richer. We need enforcement of the already-on-the-books laws. Lead the way Sheriff Harrison!

    Viva la 287g program! Send them all home!

  • TheAdmiral Mar 27, 2:42 p.m.

    Don't forget to slam the door shut on your way home.

    Now I might be able to do my landscaping business and charge for my services rather than get paid $10 for 10 hours of work.

  • dplowman Mar 27, 1:49 p.m.

    What a shame,Now who are we going to get to do those jobs they were doing? What about the people drawing unimployment?
    And while we are at it lets make everone who gets any kind of help from the state take a drug test befor they get their first check. I think the idea from West Va. is the best one so far.

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