Beardstown, Small Midwestern Meatpacking Town, Wrestles With Immigration Issue

“It used to be that something happened in Beardstown, and people would blame it on a Mexican,” Walters said. “But, if you look at the numbers, there’s really no difference in the rate of crimes between Hispanics and whites in our city. It’s just not the case.”

Researchers Mark Mather and Kevin Pollard of the Population Reference Bureau, a nonpartisan research organization, say that Latino immigration has helped revive the populations of small townssuch as Beardstown all across the Midwest and Great Plains. Between 2000 and 2006, the researchers found that total population in small towns and rural areas increased only by 3 percent, while Hispanic population grew by 22 percent. Since 1990, the Hispanic population in small towns and rural areas has more than doubled.