Mi Casa Is Not Tu Casa

Protesters say illegals take our jobs, bring in leprosy, and, grrr, sell ice cream from bicycles

"I feel fortunate," Rodriguez says. "I came to look for opportunities my country doesn't have. There, there are not so many resources." Although he's the son of farm workers, Rodriguez says he'd been a teacher in Guatemala, where he made less than $200 a month.

Now, if hired regularly for day jobs, he can make up to ten times that. But he has launched other ventures just in case his number doesn't come up often enough in the raffle. In his spare time, he teaches his peers how to read and write. He has also started a little business where people can buy things from a catalog. It's a pyramid scheme, kind of like Amway, in which he's rewarded by getting more people to join.

He doesn't let the protesters bother him too much, he says. "This is the country of opportunity. I am fighting for my future."

Charlie Elliott does not like the way his Jupiter neighborhood has changed.
C. Stiles
Charlie Elliott does not like the way his Jupiter neighborhood has changed.
C. Stiles

With that, he hands out his business card.

Charlie Elliott is disturbed by what he sees in the neighborhood of Pine Gardens South. He says he's aware of 18 robberies this year that were never reported in the paper. His immigrant neighbors host drug parties — he knows they are drug parties because he sees 15 to 20 cars come and go in an hour. His neighbor is a coyote who runs an illegal daycare. And immigrants are getting free prescriptions from the county, then turning around to sell them for profit, he alleges.

There are Hispanic gangs in the streets, Elliott says. Houses with seven cars in the driveway violate code, he says, as do apartments that can be rented by the bed. Go to the hospital, he says, and there's a four-hour wait because of sick immigrants crowding the place.

He is particularly offended that one girl arrived in town on a Thursday and had a job at Burger King on Friday.

Elliott believes that charities that supply immigrants with free food are being duped. Multiple charities service the exact same house, he says, causing overflow and waste. "They're throwing food away! Ask our garbageman!" He suggests doing a ride-along on a garbage route to find evidence.

Sgt. Scott Pascarella of the Jupiter Police Department, asked about this barrage of allegations, says there is no increase in robberies and "no influx of drug activity among the Hispanic community." He says he doesn't have any knowledge of immigrant gangs, and if there's an illegal coyote-run daycare, Elliott is welcome to report it.

A ride-along with Elliott through the neighborhood does reveal sights that might be normal and even comforting in Guatemala but are new to Pine Gardens South: groups of Hispanic men in cowboy hats, women carrying babies in slings, a man napping on a front lawn at 1 p.m., grown men riding bicycles.

For speaking out about his concerns, Elliott says, he has been rewarded with a broken window on his truck. Another day, he came out to find a dent in his hood.

Elliott's son-in-law David Perry lives down the street. Outside his house stands a flagpole with an American flag and another flag flying the number 88 — for race-car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"Twenty years ago, this was all blue-collar families and dirt roads," Perry says. He began noticing the influx of foreigners around 2005. "You can tell by the bicycles, these guys don't have licenses. At night, it's worse — they go around with no reflectors."

"They rock 'n' roll pretty good too," Perry adds. He hears music, traffic, and breaking beer bottles at 2 and 3 a.m. He has lodged at least 15 complaints, he says. "They won't stop drinking. They party till dawn." (Sgt. Pascarella says the town recently passed an ordinance to help curb noise disturbances and open consumption of alcohol.)

Perry reports that he once saw a drunken guy go flying over his handlebars. Another time, there was a stabbing. "They parade down the street with the Mexican flag."

Perry has even witnessed a man selling ice cream from a three-wheeled bicycle. "That should be illegal, shouldn't it?"

Pascarella laughs at this suggestion, saying that he has never encountered such a rogue ice cream salesman. "If I do confront one, I'll give you a call!"

Once, when he heard cops investigating a home invasion, Perry says, "I had my gun out."

Perry points across the street. "You know Corn Maya?" he asks ominously. "That's the head guy's house."

Isn't Corn Maya, like, a charity? Perry chuckles, as though the suggestion is naive. "That's a front."

What about the old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?" How about heading over to meet the neighbors with a six-pack of Corona? Perry scoffs. He'd rather beat 'em.

Elliott's across-the-street neighbor, Diane Mondun, 59, has lived in the neighborhood since 1973. She says the man next door is a slumlord who crams in too many tenants. The house, she says, has rats and plumbing problems. Another neighbor — an immigrant — is always working on cars. Oil could contaminate the ground.

Mondun says Jupiter is such a magnet for immigrants that strange men have showed up on her doorstep asking, "Friend? You speaka English?" When she looks puzzled, they go to the next house. She says that, since people need proof of residence to register at El Sol, they have stolen her water bill to get her address. (Pascarella says he has never heard of a stolen-water-bill racket.) In spite of the center, contractors pick up workers in the neighborhood, honking at 6:30 a.m.

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