Monday, June 19, 2017
WILLARD, Ohio -- Migrant workers arrive here every spring to work in the "muck," which is what everybody calls the fertile soil that makes this part of Ohio the perfect place to grow radishes, peppers, cucumbers and leafy greens. The temporary workers can be seen planting, weeding and, later in the season, harvesting crops that will be sold at national supermarket chains.
But there's trouble in the muck this growing season.
The first sign of discontent came earlier in the year, when the Willard Area Chamber of Commerce was planning a welcome-back party for the migrants, most of whom come from Mexico and other countries farther south. Vendors were to sell food and drink. A soccer tournament, rides and singers were to entertain the crowd. At the chamber's February meeting, everyone seemed on board.
But after a local newspaper published an article about the event in March, a far less welcoming response emerged, one rooted in the vigorous national debate over illegal immigration that brought President Trump to office. Some Willard residents complained that Hispanic workers did not deserve any special treatment, and that those without papers ought to be met not with open arms, but rather with handcuffs. Daniel Young, a Vietnam War veteran, wrote a letter to the editor of The Norwalk Reflector saying that he and others "are still waiting on our welcome-home party."
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