02/23/05 — Leaders from three counties to visit Mexico

View Archive

Leaders from three counties to visit Mexico

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 23, 2005 2:12 PM

Wayne, Duplin and Sampson counties have some of the fastest growing immigration rates in the nation, and a delegation from the three counties will participate next month in a study program on Mexican immigration.

Among those going are state Reps. Louis Pate and Russell Tucker and Duplin County Manager Fred Eldridge. The group of 28 elected officials and leaders in business, education, law enforcement, health and religion will be in Oaxaca and Mexico City from March 7 until March 13. They will see firsthand the cultural, political, social and economic issues that lead many Mexicans to come to North Carolina.

The trip is part of a Latino Initiative, a program of the Raleigh-based Center for International Understanding. The center is a public service program of the University of North Carolina.

The goal of the Latino Initiative is to help local leaders identify practical strategies for addressing the challenges of a growing immigrant population. All three counties have seen tremendous growth in their Latino populations:

Wayne County schools saw a 374 percent increase in enrollment among Hispanic students between 1993 and 2003, according to statistics from the state Department of Public Instruction. The Hispanic population in Sampson County grew 791 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to US Census figures, and 38 percent of live births in Duplin County in 2003 were Hispanic babies, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Mt. Olive Pickle Company President Bill Bryan participated in the Latino Initiative program in 2003 as part of a network of foundation and corporate leaders. Mt. Olive has helped gather support from local officials and business leaders to participate in the March program.

"A strength of the Latino Initiative is that it does not advocate particular policy positions," Bryan said. "It equips community leaders with a greater understanding of immigration issues. And, it provides a network of other leaders who are facing similar challenges across the state."

Bryan said his experience with the Latino Initiative in 2003 was informative and beneficial to himself and to Mt. Olive Pickle Company. The plant's Human Resources manager, Chris Martin, will go on the trip next month.