07/12/05 — Commissioners hear about growing Hispanic influence

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Commissioners hear about growing Hispanic influence

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 12, 2005 1:45 PM

Wayne County's Hispanic population has increased 300 percent in the past decade, Wayne County commissioners learned Monday, with most of the increase in the southeastern section of the county.

Wayne is also getting the "cream of the crop" in terms of Hispanic workers, commissioners were told.

Those were some of the facts shared with commissioners Monday, as a group of local leaders talked about the Latino Initiative, a program sponsored by Center for International Understanding in Chapel Hill.

The leaders, who included representatives from Wayne Community College, area businesses and public school officials, went to Mexico in March. The goal was for the participants to gain an understanding of the political, economic and social reasons for immigration.

Chris Martin, human resources director for Mount Olive Pickle Co., said that there are many villages in Mexico with few young men.

"They have come to America because there are no jobs in Mexico," she said.

Twenty percent of the work force at Mount Olive Pickle is Hispanic, 45 percent is black and 35 percent is white.

Ms. Martin said that there were challenges in the work place because of cultural differences.

"There are differences between the male and female roles in society," she said. "And in Mexico it is considered rude to make eye contact with your supervisor."

Here, she said, people thought you were hiding something if you didn't make eye contact.

"And not everyone speaks the same Spanish," she said.

The largest source of income in Mexico is the money sent from working immigrants in America.

Mark Lynch of Goldsboro Milling Company said that Latino workers are motivated and want the highest net pay possible.

"They want to work a 50- to 60-hour work week, and will often get a second job," he said.

Lynch said that they were also more interested in compensation packages, rather than benefit packages.

"How much money is in my hand right now is what they are interested in," he said.

Charles Ivey, principal of Spring Creek Elementary, said that there are 1,536 Latino students enrolled in the Wayne County public schools.

Although Mexico technically requires six years of education, Ivey said that the reality for many rural residents is much less.

"Many immigrants have received little formal instruction," Ivey said.

Judy Pelt, director of Social Services in Wayne County, said Mexico also didn't have an organized social services system.

"There is a lot of begging in the cities," she said. "It's not unusual to see elderly people placed, by their families, in front of the cathedrals in Mexico to beg."

Ms. Pelt said that the public assumes social services are available to anyone, but they are not.

"Undocumented aliens can receive very limited medical care, and documented aliens that have come here since 1996 have to live here five years before they are eligible for Medicaid," she said.

In other business, commissioners:

*Set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 2 regarding a proposal to increase the E-911 surcharge by one dollar.

*Agreed to allow the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation to hold its annual dinner on the Wayne County Courthouse grounds on Sept. 23.