Hispanics are here — some legally, some not

Published 1:41 pm Saturday, March 10, 2007

By Staff
Number looking for jobs increasing in county
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
North Carolina, especially the eastern part of the state, cannot deny that immigrants are becoming a substantial part of the population.
The state’s immigrant population increased by 274 percent during the 1990s, the largest increase in the U.S. Between 1990 and 2000, North Carolina gained almost 315,000 immigrants, bringing the total number of foreign-born residents in the state to 430,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As of 2000, there were 206,000 illegal aliens residing in North Carolina, according to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service figures, giving North Carolina the ninth largest illegal immigrant population in the country.
Speaking at Cypress Landing on Feb. 28, Rick Kilroy, assistant director of military programs at East Carolina University, talked about Mexican immigration from a national standpoint, but did mention the specific draw of North Carolina.
The 2005 American Community Survey puts the Hispanic or Latino population of the county at 11,116 or 8.4 percent of total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site.
But Pat Oswalt, manager of the Beaufort County Employment Security Commission, estimated the Hispanic population of the county to be much larger than that, about 15 percent, he said Friday.
The ESC does not require proof of a person’s legal status when looking for a job, however. That responsibility lies with the employer, Oswalt said. Proof of legal immigration is required only if a person is applying for unemployment benefits, he said.
Beaufort County commissioners have a plan for making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to live in the area. On Feb. 8, commissioners voted 6-1 to remove signs, posters or other similar items that have languages other than English on them from county property .
Commissioner Hood Richardson, who introduced the proposal, said he and his fellow commissioners have the responsibility to “stop the bilingualization of America where we can.”
Eliminating the influx of illegal immigrants would not necessarily be beneficial to the state, Kilroy said. Annually, the immigrant population spends about $9.2 billion in North Carolina alone, and from 2000-2004 they accounted for 57 percent of the growth in public school enrollment in the state, according to Kilroy.
It is impossible to tell, Kilroy said.