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Immigrants come to small towns too

Some migrant families say it is easier to adjust to life from an agricultural area of Latin America to a town in the Carolinas.

Dec. 28, 2006 |

They come to small towns too (Joyce Cordero, NBC News producer)

A young boy attends church in a cowboy hat and boots.

He was born in North Carolina but his parents were not. His mother and father say they chose to come here because they wanted their son to be raised in a place where family values are important.  They say they could never live in Miami or Chicago because they are not city people and they don’t like city problems. The members of this family prefer being able to wave to their neighbors as they let their child run free in the vast green areas of the North Carolina town they now call home.

The boy is an American. His parents are natives of Honduras. Brokaw Reports went to small towns in North Carolina where illegal immigrant communities are exploding to take a closer look at the new geographical paths being taken by undocumented workers. What we found were families that say it is easier to adjust to life from an agricultural area of Latin America to a town in the Carolinas than to the fast pace of a New York or Los Angeles. 

Of course, they say they come for the jobs. And those are plentiful in this part of the country in poultry and hog plants as well as furniture factory mills. The jobs pay well, better than the service jobs offered in big cities and housing is cheaper. In Los Angeles, for example, a service job seldom pays more than minimum wage and many illegal immigrants pay $400 to share a room in a house. In many areas of North Carolina, meat processing plant jobs pay about $4.00 above minimum wage and $400 pays for an entire apartment. Life is less expensive.

More importantly, undocumented workers say, the small town way of life is what they want for their children.

Many of these recent immigrants come from rural areas where sugar and coffee plantations are closing and it is no longer possible to support a family by working the land. But they still want their children to grow up with similar values. Big cities, they fear, tear families apart exposing their children to gangs, drugs and violence. Small towns they explain, allow them to live their days centered on family.

NBC News spent eight months reporting on the myths and truths about illegal immigration in this pristine stretch between Aspen and Vail, a historically white population that has seen an influx of thousands of Hispanics, mostly from Mexico. The hour-long documentary follows a booming economy attracting illegal workers willing to do unskilled labor, questioning what happens to American culture and America's laws when hundreds of thousands of people enter the country illegally.