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Officials: Immigrant laborers here legally

With rumors of illegal immigrants flooding the county, the Lycoming County Commissioners went on record at their meeting — the rumors are untrue.

The commissioners came to that conclusion after attending a meeting of business owners, government officials and members of a local patriot group this week in Jersey Shore. Also at the meeting were representatives from a staffing agency that deals with placing immigrant workers at local businesses.

“We went up there because of the rumors going on — to check out what the status was,” Commissioner Scott Metzger said.

“These businesses are doing it appropriately, going by the law. They’re going through staffing agencies, documents are checked,” he stated. “The rumors are unjustified. It needs to cease. It doesn’t help anybody.”

The meeting was sparked by accounts claiming that airplanes are bringing people in from the border by the current administration and that those people are being brought by bus to work at area businesses. A meat-packing plant in Loganton was supposedly then hiring the illegal immigrants.

“As far as we can tell, that is not the case,” Commissioner Rick Mirabito said following the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday. He added that a staffing agency with offices in Lock Haven handles the hiring of these employees, which he said do come from different places.

“We talked to the staffing agencies,” said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “These gentlemen are highly intelligent. They were Haitian.”

“It was interesting the procedure in which these companies hire these people. The paperwork that’s necessary. These are immigrants that come across legally. They’re looking for the American dream and they’re workers,” Mussare said.

Also addressed at the meeting was that one of the biggest challenge facing the county is the loss of population. It was noted that in the last census, the county’s population declined by 1.8%.

“One of the challenges we face is the population declining plus the aging population in our county,” Mirabito said.

“What we’re trying to talk about is getting the public to understand that the face of the community may change from what we’ve seen in terms of race and ethnicity and what people are more used to seeing over the years,” Mirabito said.

Some of the workers at Nicholas Meat LLC, Loganton, have been on the job for five years, living at hotels.

“How do we get them to buy house in the community and move into the community in that way, so that they’re not staying at a hotel?” Mirabito said was one question that came up at the meeting.

“When people move to buy houses, it stimulates our housing market,” he said.

“We have to find a way as a community to understand that just because people have a different color or a different ethnicity or a different accent or whatever, that doesn’t mean that they’re not hard-working good people,” he added.

Speaking specifically to the meat-packing plant, Mirabito stated that the real issue is if they can’t get workers, then eventually they will leave the community.

“And that impacts all of us,” Mirabito said.

Attending the meeting as a concerned citizen, who is also a member of a local patriot group, Catherine Burns said that the meeting had answered a lot of the concerns she had about the rumors.

“Yes, based on what I was told yesterday. Troy Musser (owner of the Gamble Farm Inn) and the folks at Nicholas Meats are doing everything they can to stay within the law and to hire people that are legitimately here,” Burns said.

Burns then went on to say that she believes that there are illegal immigrants coming into northeastern Pennsylvania.

“I think the federal government is disgusting,” Burns said. “I think they need to shut the border. I think they’re doing everything they can to destroy our country. … I think it’s a travesty and it starts at the top. … I don’t blame anybody locally. But we can’t fix it locally, it has to be fixed from the top.”

The chairman of the Lycoming County Patriots, Richard Houser, felt that those at the meeting had “talked around the edges” of the issue of immigrants in area communities.

“The employers there gave us information that the people they have are here under a legal visa,” Houser said.

Houser questioned what happens to workers when their visas run out and they move on from their current employment.

“Nobody knows what happens after the expiration of the visas,” Houser stated.

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