Immigrant tide may be turning in North Carolina

North Carolina's decade-long influx of illegal immigrants may be waning as the economy falters and law officers crack down.

Fewer migrants are crossing the nation's southern border, U.S. and Mexican officials say. And some of those who had made homes in North Carolina are returning to their home countries -- pushed by unemployment, the loss of driver's licenses or the deportation of family members.

"There is no work here," said Jose Ramirez, 40, who visited the Mexican consulate in Raleigh this week to make sure his passport was in order. He said he hasn't found a job in two months and, after four years working in construction and restaurants, most recently in Wilmington, he was planning to return to his home in Veracruz. "When I was working in restaurants, I was sometimes able to send home $800 a month," he said. "But there is no work left."

For North Carolina, there are not yet enough data to show whether the immigrant population is shrinking. Census figures that could shed more light are not yet available.

But local and national indicators strongly suggest that the rate of growth of illegal immigrants has at least slowed considerably.

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