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Hispanic immigrants strain resources

Jeff Tyler Jan 22, 2010

Hispanic immigrants strain resources

Jeff Tyler Jan 22, 2010


Bill Radke: Yesterday, we told you about a study of rural towns that have seen a big influx of undocumented Latino laborers. And it turned out a lot of the common stereotypes about these immigrants were false. But there were some exceptions. Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler takes us to Warsaw, North Carolina.

Jeff Tyler: You can see the changing demographics in the faces of school children. Traditionally, most of the students at Warsaw Elementary School have been black or white. These days, there are more kids from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Most are presumed to be in the country illegally. In fact, Hispanics make up about 20 percent of the population in Duplin county — that’s almost three times the average in other parts of North Carolina. And the flood of new folks has put a strain on some local services.

Win Batten is mayor of Warsaw:

Win Batten: We have had some overcrowding in some of our schools because of the influx of Hispanic and Latino workers.

A recent study looked at the economic impact of Hispanic immigrants moving into small rural communities. The study found that poverty and unemployment rates actually fell when Hispanics came to town. But the new immigrants did create new expenses for rural schools.

Study co-author Martha Crowley with North Carolina State University says schools face a challenge with kids who can’t speak English.

Martha Crowley: The schools are required to provide bilingual materials, bilingual information to go out to parents, English-as-a-second-language programs that they, in other circumstances, would not need to provide or pay for.

A similar kind of financial pressure has been placed on rural hospitals. Duplin General Hospital doesn’t track the legal status of its patients. But it has seen an increase in Hispanics without insurance. And they constitute a majority of patients receiving some hospital services. Like delivering babies.

Harvey Case: We had 532 deliveries — 56 percent of those deliveries were Latino.

That’s Harvey Case, the president of Duplin General Hospital. He says translators had to be hired to help those who speak only Spanish.

Case: Just like a lot of rural hospitals, our hospital is losing money. And any time you get a population that has a negative impact on the operating margin, it just creates a real challenge for us.

It’s a challenge shared by rural schools and hospitals around the country.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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