A Somali Influx Unsettles Latino Meatpackers

by Kal El on October 19, 2008 · 2 comments

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You know things are going to hell when Mexicans start to worry…

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Like many workers at the meatpacking plant here, Raul A. Garcia, a Mexican-American, has watched with some discomfort as hundreds of Somali immigrants have moved to town in the past couple of years, many of them to fill jobs once held by Latino workers taken away in immigration raids.

Mr. Garcia has been particularly troubled by the Somalis’ demand that they be allowed special breaks for prayers that are obligatory for devout Muslims. The breaks, he said, would inconvenience everyone else.

“The Latino is very humble,” said Mr. Garcia, 73, who has worked at the plant, owned by JBS U.S.A. Inc., since 1994. “But they are arrogant,” he said of the Somali workers. “They act like the United States owes them.”

Mr. Garcia was among more than 1,000 Latino and other workers who protested a decision last month by the plant’s management to cut their work day — and their pay — by 15 minutes to give scores of Somali workers time for evening prayers.

After several days of strikes and disruptions, the plant’s management abandoned the plan.

But the dispute peeled back a layer of civility in this southern Nebraska city of 47,000, revealing slow-burning racial and ethnic tensions that have been an unexpected aftermath of the enforcement raids at workplaces by federal immigration authorities.

Grand Island is among a half dozen or so cities where discord has arisen with the arrival of Somali workers, many of whom were recruited by employers from elsewhere in the United States after immigration raids sharply reduced their Latino work forces.

The Somalis are by and large in this country legally as political refugees and therefore are not singled out by immigration authorities.

In some of these places, including Grand Island, this newest wave of immigrant workers has had the effect of unifying the other ethnic populations against the Somalis and has also diverted some of the longstanding hostility toward Latino immigrants among some native-born residents.

Read the rest in the New York Times.

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  • Chris

    I applaud the Mexicans for standing up to the Somalians. They Mexicans called it right away, that Muslims think that the world owes them something.

  • jennyjen

    That is one sharp meat-packer! Most of the Muslims I encounter go to college and OH the arrogance! Walking around my town with your nose in the air like somebody owes you something? “Getonouttahere!” is all I got to say, in the exact same fashion my dad used it to yell at stray dogs that wandered into the yard.