Local Politics

Immigration inaction frustrates many in Wilson

Posted October 6, 2014 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2014 4:24 p.m. EDT

— Latinos make up about 9 percent of the population in North Carolina – nearly double the percentage in 2000 – and many of them have settled in rural communities across the state.

In Wilson County, for example, Hispanic immigrants for years have played a vital role in the farming economy, harvesting tobacco, cotton and other crops. Now, some have opened their own tiendas, carnicerias and other businesses.

Despite Latino contributions to the area economy, some Wilson residents see immigration as an issue of illegal actions and fear the impact of immigration on their community.

"They're driving without a driver's license, they're driving without insurance, and they're driving a car that maybe has not been inspected. So, in that way, they are causing harm," Dot Eagles said while eating Sunday lunch with her husband and two grandsons at Dick's Hot Dogs in Wilson.

"I get frustrated, as I think a lot of people do, regardless of what side of the argument you're on," said Tartt Thomas, a local lawyer who has clients who are in the U.S. illegally.

"They're good people. They're here trying to make a living. They're here trying to care for their children," Thomas said. "They're just kind of pushed to the fringe."

Vicenta Rivera Carino, came to Wilson illegally from Mexico City 17 years ago. She now has a visa.

"That's why they're here," Rivera Carino said of her fellow immigrants. "They want a better life. I know where I come from, life is tough."

She said she would like to see Congress offer people like her a path to citizenship "if they're working hard and doing what the law requires."

Congress hasn't mustered the appetite to pass immigration reform, and President Barack Obama said he plans to wait until after the Nov. 4 election to announce action on his own.

Jose Linares, whose parents worked in nearby farm fields for years before they were able to open a Mexican meat market in Sims, said the U.S. spends too much money on trying to deport people.

Rafel Aguado illegally entered the U.S. nearly 30 years as a desperate teenager. Now a legal resident, he said he's tired of hearing the same old arguments on immigration reform.

"I would like to see if they can do what they've been talking about for the last 15, 20 years," Aguado said. "I'm not saying they need to open the borders, but they need to try to help the people that's already in this country."