Nativist-town, U.S.A.


The New York Times' Amy Goodnaugh reports from a "fading Florida town" whose mayor came up with a novel idea for a sparking a renaissance—kicking out immigrants.

Avon Park's [proposal] would deny business permits to companies that knowingly hired illegal immigrants. The ordinance, which states that illegal immigration "destroys our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life," would also make English the official language of Avon Park, removing Spanish from all city documents, signs and automated phone messages.

The proposal has some of Avon Park's roughly 8,800 residents exalting, others fuming and still others—including those who rent rooms or apartments in the scruffy Golden Age Villas, west of the abandoned train tracks—plain scared. The City Council passed it 3 to 2 on the first reading and is likely to adopt it July 24.

"We just wouldn't be able to stay here," said Armando Garcia Cortes, 45, who said he came to Avon Park, about 80 miles southeast of Orlando, from Veracruz, Mexico, to pick oranges and fix roofs. "They're going to see the farmworker population here drop. We would all be leaving."

Goodnaugh's story gets across the strong undercurrents of fear from both immigrants and non-immigrants in the town. Talk radio-listening citizens have started fretting about Mexicans going on crime waves; immigrants are fretting about Spanish becoming prohibido in restaurants and on the street. And it was all inspired by the doings in Hazelton, PA.