The Wall Street Journal has a story this morning that talks about the impact of illegal immigration in Dalton Georgia, where Mexicans and others from Central America came to work in the town’s many carpet mills. The story raises the question about how President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which could have the effect of allowing up to five million immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of deportation, will affect the city. Of Dalton’s 30,000 residents, 16,000 are Hispanic.
One illegal immigrant is quoted as saying she and her family is looking forward to living without fear, and enjoying the opportunities to attend school and other work without worrying about being targeted by police.
While Georgia has joined a lawsuit that seeks to block President Obama’s executive action, and is one of several states that doesn’t permit students shielded DACA to pay in-state tuition or attend the Peach State’s flagship universities, the situation in Dalton appears to be a bit more relaxed.
Stung by enforcement raids, carpet manufacturers haven’t reacted publicly to Mr. Obama’s plan, which most Republicans call an abuse of presidential power. Shaw Industries, one of the largest carpet makers, declined an interview request. The Carpet and Rug Institute trade group also declined to comment.
“[W]e try to stay out of the noise and finger-pointing,” said Brian Anderson, president of the Dalton Chamber of Commerce. “I believe [the executive action] could only improve our community.”
Some area residents were uneasy with the newcomers. But the reaction was more muted than might have been expected in such a conservative area, said Randall Patton, a Kennesaw State University historian who has published two books about the carpet industry. In a 2003 book, Mr. Patton quoted Shaw Industries’ executive Charles Parham, now deceased, saying, “The Hispanics have been a salvation of our carpet industry.”
“Mill owners tend to be rock-ribbed Republicans, but business trumps politics,” Mr. Patton said.