Route to Recovery

A trip through the epicenters of the recession

Beginning at El Centro

November 2, 2009


When planning for a trip across America that would both take in a broad swath of territory and also highlight some of the worst and best spots in the U.S. economy today, El Centro in southern California was a no-brainer.

Not only is El Centro located in one of the states worst affected by the housing crisis and the recession – California faces a major fiscal crisis and was reduced earlier this year to paying its bills with IOUs – but it is in Imperial County, which has the country’s highest unemployment rate.

As of September, the jobless rate in this county down by the Mexican border stood at 30.1 percent. Even taking into account the fact that much of the workforce here is seasonally employed in the agricultural sector, that is an astounding number.

We’re here to find out what else has driven this county’s unemployment rate to such crazy levels and see what impact this has had on the local people. With the Mexican border just a stone’s throw away and illegal immigration such a contentious issue in American national politics, we also want to swing by the local state border patrol and get their take on falling immigration numbers.

One question for them and for the locals on our travels hereabouts: has “El Norte” lost any of its appeal amid the downturn?


At least you can get good huevos rancheros and chile rellanos in El Centro while you see Cher’s birthplace.
But, Imperial Cty, which is in the Desert therefore dependent on irrigation water drawn from the Colorrado River, has had to “give” much of it’s Colorado water allocation to San Diego Cty, which is on the Pacific. This has forced many farms in the Nation’s “Salad Bowl” to go fallow (stop planting). And, cost factors and explosive golf course growth in the Desert have caused the grape growers and others to “off-shore” their farming operations into Baja California Norte (Mexico). Where they’re getting the water is a guess because We (the US) have stolen Mexico’s Colorado River water allocation ‘fair n’ square’.
What’s in your mouth, America?
I’ll take “illegal immigration”, thank you very much.

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