How a SD turkey processing plant saw opportunity in the exodus from Puerto Rico

“You guys good?” requested one of many drivers who can be taking them to their new residence. “Does anyone converse English?”

“No,” one individual stated, and the driving force let the van go silent earlier than turning up some nation music.

By means of the home windows, there have been miles of vacancy, and Gretchen Velez, 21, appeared on the others within the van and was quiet. She’d began the day on an island that was desperately brief on electrical energy and clear water and jobs due to Hurricane Maria. Now, 10 hours later, she was in South Dakota – a spot she knew virtually nothing about, aside from what a job recruiter had advised her, that he had a place for her at a turkey processing plant in a rural city almost three,000 miles away.

Velez had by no means left Puerto Rico, however after years of financial disaster after which a pure catastrophe, virtually everyone she knew was questioning whether or not they had any selection however to go. By some counts, almost 2,000 Puerto Ricans have been leaving day-after-day, and in that exodus, some mainland U.S. corporations have been beginning to see a chance of their very own – a brand new reply of their ever-evolving wrestle to seek out staff who would carry out decrease-rung American jobs. “Off to my new life,” Velez had informed her mom that morning, however now she was questioning: What am I doing right here? Is that this the best factor?

One other method to ask it: How does somebody arrive at such a spot within the U.S. workforce? When Velez and the others arrived in Huron after a two-hour experience from the airport, it was after midnight, and on the horizon have been the lights of a turkey plant referred to as Dakota Provisions. The temperature had dipped into the 30s, and earlier within the day, fierce wind gusts had carried hundreds of white turkey feathers from the plant, scattering them for a number of miles, onto farmland and street medians, and onto the grounds of a motel the place the vans now pulled up. The Puerto Ricans unloaded their baggage, and a Spanish-talking human-assets worker from the turkey plant handed out keys and confirmed them to their rooms.

The worker guided Velez and her brother Carlos, together with a pal who had additionally come, to a room on the second flooring. They stepped inside and appeared round. The lights labored. So did the TV. Heat water got here out of the toilet faucet.

“All the things OK?” the worker requested, and when Velez stated “Sure,” he stated, “Have an excellent night time.”

Velez pushed her suitcases into the nook after which tried to make the room really feel like residence, strolling over to the thermostat and turning the warmth to excessive.

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Employees work in a refrigerated environment processing turkeys at Dakota Provisions in Huron, S.D.

Ten weeks earlier, Velez…

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