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Old 06-06-2007, 03:06 PM
Location: Oklahoma(formerly SoCalif) Originally Mich,
13,387 posts, read 16,212,130 times
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Growing Hispanic presence
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
THE ISSUE: Hoover's booming construction market and bountiful jobs will continue to lure immigrant workers, and the city will have to continue to adapt.

The same fast growth that has unleashed a seemingly unending building boom in Hoover has brought with it thousands of immigrants to the city, most of them Hispanic and many of them likely illegal immigrants.

Many of the workers building the homes in the city's upscale subdivisions are Hispanic. An increasing number of Mexican restaurants and businesses catering to Hispanics has sprouted up in the city. Some churches offer services in Spanish.

Hoover schools are educating higher numbers of Hispanic students, including more than 400 in the past year who were learning English. The Police Department had to hire dispatchers who speak Spanish, recruits Spanish-speaking officers and created a special crime unit to deal and work with the Hispanic community.

Those are only some of the ways Hoover is feeling the impact of a burgeoning Hispanic population. In her story in today's Hoover News, News staff writer Erin Stock shows how quickly that population has grown over the past 15 years. The number of Hispanics in Hoover grew from 286 (less than 1 percent of the city's population) in 1990 to nearly 4,000 by the year 2005 (more than 5 percent). Hispanic students now make up 5.7 percent of students in Hoover schools.

Like it or not, the immigrant population is part - and a contributing part, at that - of the Hoover community. The new residents not only put burdens on city and school services, but also boost the city's economy.

Unfortunately, the reaction of some residents and even elected officials hasn't always been commendable. The 2004 city elections, for example, carried with it an ugly undertone as immigration became a key issue. Doing something about "the problem on Lorna," a reference to foreign day laborers congregating off Lorna Road looking for work, became a main concern of some.

After the election, the new mayor and City Council forced the Multicultural Resource Center, a Catholic charity that became a pickup point for day laborers, out of a city-owned building on Municipal Drive. The center relocated and continues to assist immigrants with such services as health screening and English and citizenship classes, but not with the controversial labor pickup.

Add to that the fervent and sometimes harsh rhetoric around the nation as Congress debates an immigration bill that its opponents describe as providing amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Certainly, other communities in Alabama also face challenges relating to the growing Hispanic population. In Shelby County, for example, Hispanics make up 6 percent of county school students. As in Hoover, thousands of homes are being built in new subdivisions there, bringing with them construction jobs that attract Hispanic immigrants.

What the United States does on a national perspective about immigration will be determined by Congress and the president. Still, cities like Hoover have no choice but to continue to adapt to their growing Hispanics populations.

2007 The Birmingham News
2007 al.com All Rights Reserved.
al.com: Everything Alabama
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