This is part one of a two-part column about area Latinos and the challenges they face to become a part of the American fabric – especially the workforce. Two of the three women I interviewed were not legal immigrants. Their English was not adequate to tell their stories, and Marie Connelly, director of Centro Latino, translated for both. Occasionally one of the women would reply in English. I was never able to reply in Spanish.

Opportunity, security, and safety are the three reasons why Gaby, Ahide and Elda have come to the United States. Also, they have come to the US to provide a better life for their children.

The women are in their 30s and 40s, left Mexico and now live in the Hickory area. Gaby and Ahide are undocumented immigrants. Elda is married, and through that marriage no longer worries about documentation issues. Each woman knows her children will fare much better in the United States than in Mexico.

“A lot of times people think we came here to take away their jobs, or to do bad things,” said Gaby. “But if we just really open our eyes and look around, we can see who the bad ones are and who the good ones are.”

Minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour. In Mexico, where the three women come from, minimum wage is 62.33 pesos a day – or roughly $4.60 per day. A day! I think I’d go somewhere else, too.

Mexico is also infamous for drug-related murders and assassinations. More than 60,000 have been killed, and 10,000 are missing in Mexico since 2006 as a result of the drug wars, according to information delivered to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12 by the Latin America Working Group and the Global Exchange organizations. READ MORE

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