The New York Times took at a segment of Morristown's unemployment and immigration issues over the weekend.
It reported that like many places across the United States, the East Tennessee factory town has been transformed in the last decade by the arrival of Hispanic immigrants, many of whom are in this country illegally. Thousands of workers like Balbino López López settled in Morristown, taking the lowest-paying elbow-grease jobs, some hazardous, in chicken plants and furniture factories.
Now, with the economy spiraling downward and a crackdown continuing on illegal immigrants, many of them are learning how uncertain their foothold is in the work force in the United States.
The economic troubles are widening the gap between illegal immigrants and Americans as they navigate the job market. Many Americans who lost jobs are turning for help to the government’s unemployment safety net, with job assistance and unemployment insurance. But immigrants without legal status, by law, do not have access to it. Instead, as the recession deepens, illegal immigrants who have settled into American towns are receding from community life. They are clinging to low-wage jobs, often working more hours for less money, and taking whatever work they can find, no matter the conditions.
Despite the mounting pressures, many of the illegal immigrants are resisting leaving the country. After years of working here, they say, they have homes and education for their children, while many no longer have a stake to return to in their home countries.
Americans who are struggling for jobs move in a different world. Here, it revolves around the federally financed, fluorescent-lighted career center on Andrew Johnson Highway, a one-stop market for unemployment insurance and job retraining.
One worker who frequents the center is Joe D. Goodson Jr., 46, who was laid off more than a year ago from his job at a nearby auto parts plant. Born and raised in Morristown, Mr. Goodson said his savings had run low but his spirits were holding up, so far.
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