July 28, 2006


Town Battling Illegal Immigration Is Emptier Now (JILL P. CAPUZZO, 7/28/06, NY Times)

The downtown streets of this working-class town — usually filled with many of the immigrants who have made this place home — were unusually empty the day after the Township Council approved an ordinance banning employers and landlords from hiring or housing illegal immigrants. [...]

“They’re jealous of the Brazilians because they’re hard workers and they live well,” said Celeste Martiniano, a Portuguese-American who owns the Pavilion Barbecue restaurant here. [...]

Before Brazilian immigrants began moving here in the last five years or so, Ms. Martiniano said, the downtown business district, once a bustling shopping area, had been in decline. But the new ordinance, she said, “this is going to kill the town.”

For the last 25 years, Ms. Martiniano has lived in this Burlington County town of 8,000 residents, where as many as 2,000 to 3,000 immigrants live today. Business has been good since the opening of her restaurant two years ago, largely because of the growing Brazilian population. But on this day, there were no takers for the chicken legs spinning on spits over open flames.

Ms. Martiniano said that immigrants here were scared in the aftermath of the vote, and that those who have been most vocal against immigrants “are not working and have nothing better to do.”

Ingrid Reinhold said that the new ordinance smacked of discrimination. She and her husband, Gustav, own three businesses along Scott Street: a music store that features mostly Latin music, a Brazilian cafe that is undergoing renovations, and a bustling Western Union office, where many of the immigrants can stay in contact with relatives back home. Down the block is another Brazilian restaurant and a Brazilian nail salon. The yellow and green Brazilian flag is pasted to many shop windows.

“Three years ago this was a dead town,” said Ms. Reinhold, who was born in Ecuador. “Now you see all the stores are open, the people are out. If they do this, it’s going to be like it was before.”

Standing in front of his recording studio next door, Ed Robins talked about the Wednesday Council meeting. Describing the meeting’s adversarial atmosphere among members in the audience, Mr. Robins said “it reminded me of being on Jerry Springer.”

Although his business depends very little on the town’s growing immigrant population, Mr. Robins also worried about the ordinance’s impact on the business district and real estate values, which he said have increased with the influx of Brazilians.

“As a community, we should have drawn everybody together, including the illegals and approached it intelligently, rather than taking this small town and ripping it apart,” Mr. Robins said.

Certainly, the Brazilians are not the only immigrant population to call Riverside home. This town on the Delaware River was originally settled by Germans in 1851, followed by Poles, Italians and Irish in the early 20th century. Once a thriving industrial town, the immigrants provided much of the workforce for the textile mills of Riverside, once the country’s leading manufacturer of men’s hosiery, and the Philadelphia Watchcase Company, headquartered here until it closed its doors in 1956.

After the factories closed, the movie theater burned down and many shoppers migrated to nearby malls. Its new distinction, recognized at one point by the Guinness Book of World Records, was having the most bars and liquor licenses in a mile-square town.

Many of those bars remain, and in some of them there is talk about what needs to be done to slow the tide of immigration.

Fairly archetypal: The immigrants work while the natives drink and fret about their culture. Here's a town that ought to be in Europe instead of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 28, 2006 12:08 PM

What a shameful situation. I speak as a native-born and raised in Riverside, now a sociologist, living and working 30 years ibn Brazil. The many times I have returned to visit the township and relatives I witnessed the decline of work, leasure and quality of the residences, the streets and even the once beautiful park areas. As a Brazilian citizen I am disappointed in the goegraphical area which gave me my roots, basic community values and appreciation for immigrant families (many non-English-speaking) who lived next door, on the block and throught the town. What a short colletive memory Riverside has. Where are the decendents of the Polish, Italian and other European that composed our community? Riverside - once a town of Progress, alway a town of Progress? Shame on you!!
Jim Doxsey
telephone on Brazil: 55-27-9973-1181.

Posted by: Jaime (James) Doxsey at July 29, 2006 10:16 AM

Our beautiful town just got split apart by our ignorant and racists politicians
I have lived in Riverside for the past 30 years and until a few years ago the town at night was filled with youth that gather in corners in a gang like style selling and doing drugs and drunks in a DEAD Scott street .
Most of the rental places were rented to section 8 people, well due to the action of 5 politicians our town will go back to the pass soon
Before I used to walk there and the town was filled with life good people hanging around stores open music playing inside basically a picture perfect main street in a peacefully small town
But since they pass the new ignorant law the town is going back to the ghost tow of the past soon what will be left will be bars and 2 banks. I’m a firm believer that you should always follow the money trail don’t you think this has a lot to do with the new buildings about to go up??

Posted by: john miller at July 29, 2006 5:02 PM

Good job num nuts
Riverside welcome soon to the world of graffiti big time crime and drugs
I feel sad for our police department they are doing a good job. now they will be introduced to drive by shootings and all the beautiful things you hear in Philly and Camden
They will be your new neighbors now
Me personally I’m getting the hell out before the plywood goes up on main street
But don’t worry the new builders will gladly buy you out for the price set by them of course.
For all the above please thank the num nuts for destroying our beautiful town

Posted by: tony at July 29, 2006 5:24 PM

Amazing, truly astounding. You are apparently the people profiting from the situation. Drugs and drinking problems, no more than anywhere else. I grew up in the neigboring town (Delanco) an dmoved to Riverside with my family 10 years ago, so I have been in the area my ENTIRE life. I am NOT on the outside looking in, I am here. Was the town in decline 3 years ago? ABSOLUTELY, just like the entire country. Did you notice 3 years ago was when all the "mega stores" started in the area? Scott st (our main street) is now a scum hole, you can't walk down it without kicking trash (that is new, thanks illegals for that) 3 years ago how many out of state, uninsured vehicles were riding through town? No where near as many as there is NOW. My neighbors daughter (14yrs old) is scared to walk home from school alone because of the cat-calls and whistles, think about that for a moment, I thought the illegals were all hard working..apparently NOT. Don't sit on the outside and make judgements. If one of these wonderful people get into an accident with an uninsured car who pays for it? When they have kids and send them to school, who pays for it? When the 10-12 people in the one bedroom apartment take the garbage out (if they take it out) who pays to have it collected? This isn't about people, its about money. The tax paying citizens already take care of those on welfare that are legally in our country, why should we take care of the illegal ones as well?
IF you looked at the ordinance, it is NOT fining illegals, it is fining those that profit from them being here.

Posted by: mccbil at July 30, 2006 12:40 PM

You profit.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 2:15 PM