Video of legal 'illegal immigrants' causing headaches for local farmer

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - To one person with a smart phone, it looked like evidence of government-sponsored abuse of the immigration system, with the complicity of a local company.

As it turns out, it appears to be something completely different and the head of that local company wants to set the record straight.

A video posted to YouTube on Monday, which already has more than 13,000 views, shows an old school bus in the parking lot of a Walmart. The person who posted the video identifies the Walmart as being in Concord.

The video shows dozens of what appear to be Latino men who have been shopping at the store.

The narrator says the men are all "illegal immigrants" from a farm in China Grove and that they have all been given EBT cards from the government that they are using to buy supplies.

"This is something that is a major problem for our government today, I don't know why this is happening," the voice on the video says.  "I don't know why they're allowing these illegal immigrants to come here and giving them government subsidies to go shopping and things like that."

The woman also says that she tried to interview one of the men but he didn't speak English.  She said she was able to determine that they were from a farm in China Grove.

"They're new to America, they just got here, they're staying in China Grove he said, he was like, I was trying to get it out of him like where they were coming from," the woman continues.

For some folks who saw the video, that led directly to Patterson Farms.  It's a large farming operation located in China Grove.

"The film that is on the Internet is our actual workers, we take them to the store every Sunday to get their supplies for the week," Doug Patterson told WBTV.  "These are hardworking legal workers from Patterson Farm."

On a visit to Patterson Farm on Wednesday, WBTV saw the bus in the video and many of the workers. Patterson says all the workers are in the country legally and are here for the season under the government's H2A program.

"Our workers come on the H2A program which is a legal government program designed to let farmers have workers that they normally cannot get because they need them for a short period of time," Patterson continued.

Patterson is upset that the video is still up, though now it does include a disclaimer saying that it has been determined that the workers shown are not in the country illegally.  Even so, the woman's commentary is still on the video.

"I'm so upset right now, I'm really really upset," the woman says.  "Yeah, that's what I'm saying, I've been recording this whole thing, they just pulled up, they had all these supplies and stuff, illegal immigrants, and now they dropped off a load of them and they're taking them back."

Patterson says they run the bus out to Walmart every Sunday to allow workers to buy what they need, and he says they pay for every item with their own money.

"They use money that they earn through the week, their money is on a global cash card, it is not a government EBT card," Patterson told WBTV.

The video did get the attention of the office of Governor McCrory.

Patterson says he got a call from the governor's office on Wednesday morning asking about the video.  He says once he explained what it was everyone "had a good laugh."

Patterson does agree that there are problems with immigration reform and he says there are things that need to be changed with the laws, but that this video and the implication it has for his company is the wrong way to make a difference.

"I would like to see people direct their energies to leaders in Congress instead of not getting all the facts and putting stuff out on the internet that may cause people like us that are trying to do things the right way a lot of problems," Patterson added.

WBTV attempted to contact the woman who is thought to have shot, narrated, and posted the video, but so far, there has been no reply.

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