DALTON, Ga.— Charles Carmical doesn’t like President Barack Obama ’s politics and doesn’t endorse his recent move to enable millions of illegal immigrants
to stay in the U.S. But, the furniture-store owner acknowledges, it might be good
for his bottom line.
“If these people make more money and feel stability, it will help my business,” said
Mr. Carmical, standing in his Dalton Auctions showroom on South Dixie Highway.
Illegal immigration has changed the face of this northern Georgia town. Mexicans and
Central Americans flocked here by the thousands in the 1990s to toil in the mills
that earned Dalton the nickname “carpet capital of the world.” Now, the large concentration
of undocumented people in this conservative corner of a conservative state will make
it a powerful case study for the impact of Mr. Obama’s program as it rolls out in
As the immigrant population swelled, local schools established English language-learning
programs. Soccer began to rival football in popularity. Many locals tried their first
tacos and burritos as Mexican restaurants opened.
Some area residents were uneasy with the newcomers. But the reaction was more muted
than might have been expected in such a conservative area, said Randall Patton, a
Kennesaw State University historian who has published two books about the carpet industry.
In a 2003 book, Mr. Patton quoted Shaw Industries’ executive Charles Parham, now deceased,
saying, “The Hispanics have been a salvation of our carpet industry.”
“Mill owners tend to be rock-ribbed Republicans, but business trumps politics,” Mr.
Patton said. …
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