Buck's Shoes has been around a long time.

On an elaborate sign stretching across its front door the business proudly boasts "Purveyors of Fine Footwear and Accessories".

The store fittingly sits on Main Street.

That's Main Street, Fremont, Nebraska.

It's one of America's historic streets - part of a National Trust campaign to hold on and preserve the past, hoping perhaps it will lead to a happier and more prosperous future.

The residents themselves are also caught up in a bitter debate over their town's past and what it's facing in the future.

Two big meatpacking plants on the outskirts of town helped contribute to massive changes in the make-up of the population.

They encouraged Hispanic migrants to move there, about 40 minutes out of Omaha and thousands of kilometres north of the Mexican border.

The population of 25,000, once almost entirely white, is now almost 10 per cent Hispanic.

In such a small town, that's a noticeable shift, and it's caused intense growing pains. So much so, the local voters decided to implement their own immigration laws, banning the hiring or renting of premises to illegal immigrants, after becoming fed up waiting for the federal government to take action.

I sat down with a former city councillor Bob Warner a month ago to talk about the issues facing the town.

"They have taken over the meat packing, they're taking over construction; what's next? Now I understand they're pulling their standard of livings up, but they pull ours down," he told me at his kitchen table.

Fremont is not alone in its turmoil.

Towns and states across this country have struggled to deal with a rising Hispanic population and the benefits and disadvantages that come with it.

There are more than 50 million Hispanics in the US. They make up 16 per cent of the population and are growing faster than any other ethnic group.

But the more controversial part of the debate centres on the illegal Hispanics who live in the US - an estimated 11 million.

Barack Obama headed to El Paso, Texas this week - to one of the busiest border crossings to kick start immigration reform.

"When an issue is this complex and raises such strong feelings, it's easier for politicians to defer the problem until after the next election," he told the crowd. READ MORE

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