Montrose County is seeing a dramatic increase in it's Hispanic population the last several years. "Everything's fine, good, it's ok for everybody," says Jesus Padron. Pardon legally immigrated to Olathe a few years ago from Guanajuato Mexico to work in agriculture. "My wife and my daughter are right here in Olathe, my family lives in Mexico," says Padron.
Montrose native Perla Ramirez works with Jesus, and many other documented immigrants. "Most of them are from Mexico, and some of them are from here," says Ramirez.
These workers are part of a growing Hispanic population in Montrose County the last several years. Many will open local businesses. "We've had an ice cream shop, and little boutiques, and video stores, and new restaurants. We have a new Spanish language monthly newspaper based out of Montrose," says Karen Sherman Perez with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. Perez has worked with local immigrants for nearly a decade. She says the changing demographics are obvious. "You can see that in faith communities, in the churches; there are growing numbers in the Catholic churches, and some other Evangelical churches," explains Perez. Perez says they take whatever work they can. "We have probably hundreds of individuals from Montrose, who drive up to Telluride, and Ouray, and Ridgeway every day to work in the hotels, lay brick, cement, all of that," comments Perez.
John Harold, owner of Buffalo Packing and Tuxedo Corn has been farming in Olathe since 1967. "Initially we started out using high school labor in the summertime, but as we expanded and that labor pool shrank, we then started using Hispanic labor," remarks Harold. Harold recruits workers through the H-2A Visa Program. "Without migrant labor, over the last 20 years, many of the farms that are in this valley would no longer be in existence," says Harold.
Harold pays his workers $11.72 per hour. The H-2A program requires him to provide transportation and housing for the temporary workers, who are currently harvesting and packing onions. The work might be hard and the hours long, but the end result are onions that are shipped all over the United States. Harold just landed a big contract with Kroger Farms for his Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn. "We pick as much as a million and a quarter ears a day, by hand," says Harold.
That means he'll increase his labor force, which is good news for Perla. "That's a really nice, noble thing that John does for the people from Mexico, to help out their families," says Ramirez. And many others who dream of calling America home. "Yeah, I like it, right here in the United States," says Padron.
Officials say Montrose County is also seeing a growing number of Filipino, Central, and South American Immigrants coming into the area.