December 17, 2006

ICE Raids Uncover Weld County's Immigration Crisis

Weld County's immigration problems affect businesses from agriculture to meatpacking to fast-food joints--and once again the excuse of the necessity of illegal immigrants to do "jobs Americans won't do":
The federal raid on a Greeley meatpacking plant shone the spotlight on a long-standing local secret.

The 261 arrests at Swift & Co. on Tuesday left more than just families in limbo. It brought attention to a culture in Greeley where illegal immigrants are accepted, and depended on, as part of the workforce and as consumers.

"It's really just accepted, the immigrant workers and the illegal immigrants. And why? Because they are needed," said Steve Mize, owner of Jerry's Market. "We know it exists; it's just an ignored factor. It's not an argument; it just is."

The Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit research group, estimates that about 11,900 people in Weld County are undocumented, accounting for 5 percent of the total population. At the request of The Denver Post, Bell reviewed research done by the Urban Institute, the Pew Hispanic Center and its own work to arrive at the rough estimate. Bell also estimated that about 6,756 undocumented immigrants are in the Weld workforce, accounting for 5 percent.

Statewide, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates, there are 225,000 to 275,000 undocumented immigrants.
Of course, there are always open-borders advocates ready to offer their Nazi analogies:
Leather-goods store owner Thomas Hodge is troubled by the raids at Swift and the increasingly shrill debate over illegal immigration in Greeley and elsewhere.

"I thought it was an atrocity. I wondered if they were taking them to the gas chambers on those buses," he said. "I don't think we're going about this the right way."

He didn't like the way the illegal immigrants were treated nor that some legal Latino residents were subjected to questioning and detention during the raid.

The Real Trading Co. Inc. in southeast Greeley sells and repairs leather products and Catholic religious items such as Bibles and statues. About half of Hodge's customers are Latino, and many don't speak English. Hodge speaks enough broken Spanish to cater to those customers.

"Eventually, I think they should open up the border and let people live where they want," Hodge said.

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