At the Crossroads of Immigration
"When I first moved here, it was hard. People [were] talking around me. I don't know what they're saying I'm looking around saying, 'Okay,'" recalled Ceasar Moyda, who came to California six years ago to work at the Cargill Turkey Plant.
"It's better than Mexico, it's bad there," he said.
It's been said Hispanics will take jobs no one else wants.
"Hispanics have always been known as hard workers," Moyda added. "We do the job."
Hispanics who have come to mid-Missouri are looking for a better way of life, a way to make more money. They said they're not looking for a handout, but perhaps a hand up which often comes from the Catholic Church, such as child birth classes.
"We try to walk with the folks, giving them the respect they deserve as human beings," explained Sister Margaret of El Puente. "We don't pay attention to life's circumstances as far as the documents because we really don't need to know that."
Sister Margaret said the church tries to fill gaps that government agencies don't cover. That's why many Hispanics come to El Puente, which means "the bridge."
"The government doesn't provide these services because it doesn't want to, or can't afford it," said Sister Margaret. "Social services are really staples, whether for Hispanics or others."
Hispanics live on both sides of the tracks in California.
"Five years ago, we panicked," remembered Mayor Norris Gerhart. "The panic has slowed, everyone has stepped up to the plate."
Integration wasn't any easier in California, Mo., than in the state of California.
"All of a sudden, there's a large group of people from a different ethnic group," said Sister Peggy of El Puente, "and it can present a threat to people who have lived in the area a long time, the establishment."
The mayor said it's about understanding each other.
"There's give and take in everything in an ever-changing world," Gerhart added.
California definitely changed on Sept. 16, 2000, when five Hispanic children and one adult died in a local house fire. Chief Allen Smith said the tragedy raised awareness.
"They want to have a good job. They want to raise a family. They want them to go to school," he said. "They want what we want, a good type of life, and that's what they're here for."
After that fatal fire, the town started to require smoke detectors in all rental properties.
A billboard greets you as you enter California.
"We had an interpreter here. I don't feel we need one at this point," he said.
But the Missouri State Highway Patrol offers the driver's test in Spanish.
"We have to provide our services the same way, without bias wherever that person is from, we still have to provide that service," explained Capt. Tim Hull. "A driver's license examination is just one of them."
However, Moyda won't take the test in Spanish or English because he's afraid to drive and he also fears racial profiling. However, life is good for him. Moyda doesn't work for Cargill anymore; he fixes roofs.
But, Moyda wishes his fellow Americans would understand that he's not an immigrant. He was born in San Antonio, Texas.
"Some people look at your color [and say], 'What are you doing here? Get back to your country,'" he said.
Ceasar said California is doing a better job of welcoming Hispanics, despite a continuing divide in the community.
KOMU continues its series, Immigration In-Depth, on Friday night when you'll meet two men who don't know each other, although they both have a vision of making immigration work. We'll also show you a state judge who says she's for anything that helps the process.