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Small Town U.S.A.

Small Town U.S.A. is a rural community in the central Midwest with fewer than 25,000 residents. Recently, a migration of individuals and families from Mexico and Central America has become part of the community.

The immigrants have come to work at the new chicken processing plant, one of several in the state that has been opened recently by a national food corporation. Some of these migrants are documented and others are undocumented. Most of the workers at the plant are paid the minimum wage and many of the workers are women.

The new workers are competing for jobs with others who are long-term residents of the area (both white and African American) and who have worked for minimum wages in truck farming and other jobs in a shrinking agricultural sector. Many younger residents are discouraged by the poor job market and are leaving the community in search of better job opportunities elsewhere.

The longtime residents and the new immigrant residents do not have many places for interaction, although immigrant children are enrolled in local schools. There are some in the community who have expressed public opposition to the presence of the new residents because of the additional costs to the community for education of immigrant children ("Those immigrant kids are running all over town") and the fact that there is little or no housing available for the new residents.

The United Methodist Church has responded. Missionaries have been sent from the United Methodist Church in Mexico to help establish Spanish-speaking congregations. In addition, members of the local unit of United Methodist Women have made their church a site for the Justice for Our Neighbors Program of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) which offers legal counseling services to the new residents. The women provide childcare and hospitality.

United Methodist Women has decided to call a public meeting to discuss immigration legislation proposals that are being made at the state and federal level. Some of these proposals would make it a felony to be an undocumented immigrant. Others would make any person or group (this would include churches involved in the Justice for Our Neighbors Program) who assists an undocumented immigrant guilty of smuggling.

Participants in the community:

  • Long time residents of the community
  • Long time residents - minimum wage workers
  • Managers of the Chicken Processing Factory
  • UMW - Justice for Our Neighbors
  • Immigrant workers
Last Updated: 03/17/2014

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