Sunday, August 31, 2008

Black and White residents cheer Immigration raid on Howard Industries.

Immigration: You still think there is no divide on the ground level? I do agree that with McCain or Obama, these raids may be a thing of the past as they both would bend over backwards to accommodate illegals.

Fabiola Pena considered running away from her factory job when she realized she was being targeted in a federal immigration raid. She was deterred when she noticed the helicopters hovering overhead.

But helicopters were not what shocked Pena the most on her last, fateful day at Howard Industries, the largest employer in this small Southern town. It was the black co-workers who clapped and cheered, Pena said, as she and hundreds of other Latino immigrant laborers were arrested and hauled away.

"They said we took their jobs, but I was working from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.," said Pena, 21, a day after the raid last week that resulted in the arrest of nearly 600 suspected illegal immigrants. "I didn't see them working like us."

....But the raids might not have much of a future after the swearing-in of Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, both of whom have staked out moderate-to-liberal stances on immigration reform.

If the next president decides to curtail or end raids similar to the one at the Howard Industries, it will not sit well with many residents of Laurel. The raid was welcomed by a number of native-born residents in this manufacturing hub of about 25,000 people that has been transformed in recent years by the influx of Latino workers, many of whom are undocumented.

"They need to go and do this in every little town," Tonya Jackson said.

Jackson, who is black, said that over the years she had applied numerous times for a job at the locally owned manufacturer, which employs about 4,000 workers. Jackson, 30, said she never received a callback. The raid, she said, was a welcome purge of illegal Latino laborers who had taken jobs they didn't deserve.

"We've been here all our lives," she said. "And it seems like they have just arrived and are getting the nice cars and the good homes."

Her stance puts her at odds with Obama. The Democratic presidential nominee's website describes such raids as "ineffective" measures that have "placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families."

.....James Warren, 33, worked at Howard Industries for a few months in 2000. But he quit because of the low wages and because he said none of the co-workers during his shift spoke English.

"It was long overdue," Warren said of the raid. "Everybody knew what was going on in there. There weren't a lot of white or black people left in there anymore, it was all Mexicans."

With both presidential candidates pledging to give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, Warren said he couldn't imagine the raids continuing for long.

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