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Immigration raid cripples Ga. town

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060915/ap_on_re_us/immigration_aftermath Immigration raid cripples Ga. town By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 15,
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 16, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060915/ap_on_re_us/immigration_aftermath

      Immigration raid cripples Ga. town

      By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 15,
      2:13 PM ET

      STILLMORE, Ga. - Trailer parks lie abandoned. The
      poultry plant is scrambling to replace more than half
      its workforce. Business has dried up at stores where
      Mexican laborers once lined up to buy food, beer and
      cigarettes just weeks ago.

      This Georgia community of about 1,000 people has
      become little more than a ghost town since Sept. 1,
      when federal agents began rounding up illegal
      immigrants.

      The sweep has had the unintended effect of
      underscoring just how vital the illegal immigrants
      were to the local economy.

      More than 120 illegal immigrants have been loaded onto
      buses bound for immigration courts in Atlanta, 189
      miles away. Hundreds more fled Emanuel County.
      Residents say many scattered into the woods, camping
      out for days. They worry some are still hiding without
      food.

      At least one child, born a U.S. citizen, was left
      behind by his Mexican parents: 2-year-old Victor
      Perez-Lopez. The toddler's mother, Rosa Lopez, left
      her son with Julie Rodas when the raids began and fled
      the state. The boy's father was deported to Mexico.

      "When his momma brought this baby here and left him,
      tears rolled down her face and mine too," Rodas said.
      "She said, `Julie, will you please take care of my son
      because I have no money, no way of paying rent?'"

      For five years, Rodas has made a living watching the
      children of workers at the Crider Inc. poultry plant,
      where the vast majority of employees were Mexican
      immigrants. She learned Spanish, and considered many
      immigrants among her closest friends. She threw
      parties for their children's birthdays and baptisms.

      The only child in Rodas' care now, besides her own
      son, is Victor. Her customers have disappeared.

      Federal agents also swarmed into a trailer park
      operated by David Robinson. Illegal immigrants were
      handcuffed and taken away. Almost none have returned.
      Robinson bought an American flag and posted it by the
      pond out front — upside down, in protest.

      "These people might not have American rights, but
      they've damn sure got human rights," Robinson said.
      "There ain't no reason to treat them like animals."

      The raids came during a fall election season in which
      immigration is a top issue.

      Last month, the federal government reported that
      Georgia had the fastest-growing illegal immigrant
      population in the country. The number more than
      doubled from an estimated 220,000 in 2000 to 470,000
      last year. This year, state lawmakers passed some of
      the nation's toughest measures targeting illegal
      immigrants, and Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue last week
      vowed a statewide crackdown on document fraud.

      Other than the Crider plant, there isn't much in
      Stillmore. Four small stores, a coin laundry and a
      Baptist church share downtown with City Hall, the fire
      department and a post office. "We're poor but proud,"
      Mayor Marilyn Slater said, as if that is the town
      motto.

      The 2000 Census put Stillmore's population at 730, but
      Slater said uncounted immigrants probably made it more
      than 1,000. Not anymore, with so many homes abandoned
      and the streets practically empty.

      "This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany,
      the Gestapo coming in and yanking people up," Slater
      said.

      Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Marc
      Raimondi would not discuss details of the raids. "We
      can't lose sight of the fact that these people were
      here illegally," Raimondi said.

      At Sucursal Salina No. 2, a store stocked with Mexican
      fruit sodas and snacks, cashier Alberto Gonzalez said
      Wednesday that the owner may shutter the place. By
      midday, Gonzalez has had only six customers. Normally,
      he would see 100.

      The B&S convenience store, owned by Keith and Regan
      Slater, the mayor's son and grandson, has lost about
      80 percent of its business.

      "These people come over here to make a better way of
      life, not to blow us up," complained Keith Slater, who
      keeps a portrait of Ronald Reagan on the wall. "I'm a
      die-hard Republican, but I think we missed the boat
      with this one."

      Since the mid-1990s, Stillmore has grown dependent on
      the paychecks of Mexican workers who originally came
      for seasonal farm labor, picking the area's famous
      Vidalia onions. Many then took year-round jobs at the
      Crider plant, with a workforce of about 900.

      Crider President David Purtle said the agents began
      inspecting the company's employment records in May.
      They found 700 suspected illegal immigrants, and
      supervisors handed out letters over the summer
      ordering them to prove they came to the U.S. legally
      or be fired. Only about 100 kept their jobs.

      The arrests started at the plant Sept. 1. Over the
      Labor Day weekend, agents with guns and bulletproof
      vests converged on workers' homes after getting the
      addresses from Crider's files.

      Antonio Lopez, who came here two years ago from
      Chiapas, Mexico, and worked at the Crider plant, said
      agents kicked in his front door. Lopez, 32, and his
      15-year-old son were handcuffed and taken by bus to
      Atlanta with 30 others. Because of the boy, Lopez
      said, both were allowed to return. In his back pocket,
      he carries an order to return to Atlanta for a court
      hearing Feb. 2.

      But now, "there's no people here and I don't have any
      work," he said.

      The poultry plant has limped along with half its
      normal workforce. Crider increased its starting wages
      by $1 an hour to help recruit new workers.

      Stacie Bell, 23, started work canning chicken at
      Crider a week ago. She said the pay, $7.75 an hour,
      led her to leave her $5.60-an-hour job as a Wal-Mart
      cashier in nearby Statesboro. Still, Bell said she
      felt bad about the raids.

      "If they knew eventually that they were going to have
      to do that, they should have never let them come over
      here," she said.
    • Ram Lau
      America used to welcome immigrants, and America was once great. This is what Ken Gralbraith said to Brian Lamb on Booknotes back in 1994: GALBRAITH: I must
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 16, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        America used to welcome immigrants, and America was once great. This
        is what Ken Gralbraith said to Brian Lamb on Booknotes back in 1994:

        "GALBRAITH: I must tell you that in 1934, the second year of the New
        Deal, I was on my way from California to Harvard, and there were
        several months intervening. I stopped to see one of my old professors
        who had a high position in Washington. There was a desperate need for
        economists. That was the most wonderful thing about the New Deal, the
        shortage of economists. He put me on the payroll to make a study of
        some problems of land ownership. It was quite a good job. It paid off
        my college debts. In those days, I was not asked whether I were a
        citizen or not, which I wasn't. There was nothing in the Civil Service
        forms, but I did have to go to the top floor of the Department of
        Agriculture and affirm that I was a Democrat. That was required, but
        not the matter of citizenship."

        The complete transcript is here:

        http://www.booknotes.org/Transcript/?ProgramID=1225

        Ram


        --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060915/ap_on_re_us/immigration_aftermath
        >
        > Immigration raid cripples Ga. town
        >
        > By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 15,
        > 2:13 PM ET
        >
        > STILLMORE, Ga. - Trailer parks lie abandoned. The
        > poultry plant is scrambling to replace more than half
        > its workforce. Business has dried up at stores where
        > Mexican laborers once lined up to buy food, beer and
        > cigarettes just weeks ago.
        >
        > This Georgia community of about 1,000 people has
        > become little more than a ghost town since Sept. 1,
        > when federal agents began rounding up illegal
        > immigrants.
        >
        > The sweep has had the unintended effect of
        > underscoring just how vital the illegal immigrants
        > were to the local economy.
        >
        > More than 120 illegal immigrants have been loaded onto
        > buses bound for immigration courts in Atlanta, 189
        > miles away. Hundreds more fled Emanuel County.
        > Residents say many scattered into the woods, camping
        > out for days. They worry some are still hiding without
        > food.
        >
        > At least one child, born a U.S. citizen, was left
        > behind by his Mexican parents: 2-year-old Victor
        > Perez-Lopez. The toddler's mother, Rosa Lopez, left
        > her son with Julie Rodas when the raids began and fled
        > the state. The boy's father was deported to Mexico.
        >
        > "When his momma brought this baby here and left him,
        > tears rolled down her face and mine too," Rodas said.
        > "She said, `Julie, will you please take care of my son
        > because I have no money, no way of paying rent?'"
        >
        > For five years, Rodas has made a living watching the
        > children of workers at the Crider Inc. poultry plant,
        > where the vast majority of employees were Mexican
        > immigrants. She learned Spanish, and considered many
        > immigrants among her closest friends. She threw
        > parties for their children's birthdays and baptisms.
        >
        > The only child in Rodas' care now, besides her own
        > son, is Victor. Her customers have disappeared.
        >
        > Federal agents also swarmed into a trailer park
        > operated by David Robinson. Illegal immigrants were
        > handcuffed and taken away. Almost none have returned.
        > Robinson bought an American flag and posted it by the
        > pond out front — upside down, in protest.
        >
        > "These people might not have American rights, but
        > they've damn sure got human rights," Robinson said.
        > "There ain't no reason to treat them like animals."
        >
        > The raids came during a fall election season in which
        > immigration is a top issue.
        >
        > Last month, the federal government reported that
        > Georgia had the fastest-growing illegal immigrant
        > population in the country. The number more than
        > doubled from an estimated 220,000 in 2000 to 470,000
        > last year. This year, state lawmakers passed some of
        > the nation's toughest measures targeting illegal
        > immigrants, and Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue last week
        > vowed a statewide crackdown on document fraud.
        >
        > Other than the Crider plant, there isn't much in
        > Stillmore. Four small stores, a coin laundry and a
        > Baptist church share downtown with City Hall, the fire
        > department and a post office. "We're poor but proud,"
        > Mayor Marilyn Slater said, as if that is the town
        > motto.
        >
        > The 2000 Census put Stillmore's population at 730, but
        > Slater said uncounted immigrants probably made it more
        > than 1,000. Not anymore, with so many homes abandoned
        > and the streets practically empty.
        >
        > "This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany,
        > the Gestapo coming in and yanking people up," Slater
        > said.
        >
        > Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Marc
        > Raimondi would not discuss details of the raids. "We
        > can't lose sight of the fact that these people were
        > here illegally," Raimondi said.
        >
        > At Sucursal Salina No. 2, a store stocked with Mexican
        > fruit sodas and snacks, cashier Alberto Gonzalez said
        > Wednesday that the owner may shutter the place. By
        > midday, Gonzalez has had only six customers. Normally,
        > he would see 100.
        >
        > The B&S convenience store, owned by Keith and Regan
        > Slater, the mayor's son and grandson, has lost about
        > 80 percent of its business.
        >
        > "These people come over here to make a better way of
        > life, not to blow us up," complained Keith Slater, who
        > keeps a portrait of Ronald Reagan on the wall. "I'm a
        > die-hard Republican, but I think we missed the boat
        > with this one."
        >
        > Since the mid-1990s, Stillmore has grown dependent on
        > the paychecks of Mexican workers who originally came
        > for seasonal farm labor, picking the area's famous
        > Vidalia onions. Many then took year-round jobs at the
        > Crider plant, with a workforce of about 900.
        >
        > Crider President David Purtle said the agents began
        > inspecting the company's employment records in May.
        > They found 700 suspected illegal immigrants, and
        > supervisors handed out letters over the summer
        > ordering them to prove they came to the U.S. legally
        > or be fired. Only about 100 kept their jobs.
        >
        > The arrests started at the plant Sept. 1. Over the
        > Labor Day weekend, agents with guns and bulletproof
        > vests converged on workers' homes after getting the
        > addresses from Crider's files.
        >
        > Antonio Lopez, who came here two years ago from
        > Chiapas, Mexico, and worked at the Crider plant, said
        > agents kicked in his front door. Lopez, 32, and his
        > 15-year-old son were handcuffed and taken by bus to
        > Atlanta with 30 others. Because of the boy, Lopez
        > said, both were allowed to return. In his back pocket,
        > he carries an order to return to Atlanta for a court
        > hearing Feb. 2.
        >
        > But now, "there's no people here and I don't have any
        > work," he said.
        >
        > The poultry plant has limped along with half its
        > normal workforce. Crider increased its starting wages
        > by $1 an hour to help recruit new workers.
        >
        > Stacie Bell, 23, started work canning chicken at
        > Crider a week ago. She said the pay, $7.75 an hour,
        > led her to leave her $5.60-an-hour job as a Wal-Mart
        > cashier in nearby Statesboro. Still, Bell said she
        > felt bad about the raids.
        >
        > "If they knew eventually that they were going to have
        > to do that, they should have never let them come over
        > here," she said.
        >
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