Okay, I live in the Hudson Valley of New York State. It’s quite common here to see out-of-state license plates. Mostly they’re nearby states, of course–Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. We have lots of Floridas, too, but otherwise it’s fairly rare to see plates from anywhere south of Virginia or west of Ohio.
But about six months ago I began noticing license plates from Iowa, specifically from Polk County (Des Moines)–Iowa puts the county of registration on the plates. I notice license plates a lot more readily than cars, so at first I thought it was one or two cars that I just kept seeing as I walked around the neighborhood or drove through town. But it seemed that I was seeing them all the time, so, obsessive statistician that I am, I decided to start writing down the plate numbers. Just to keep track out of idle curiosity.
Well, as it turns out, there are at least 15 (!) different vehicles in and around my neighborhood that have Polk County license plates. (They are nearly all of the form ###-X(letter)(letter), though a couple have a Y where the X is on the others.) All (or virtually all) are driven by Hispanics–I would assume Mexicans, though I don’t know for sure.
So it seems that there was at some point in the last few months a mass exodus of Hispanics from Des Moines to here. I must admit that I find this baffling. Polk County is over 1000 miles from here, and we’re not exactly a major metropolitan area. Nor are we doing all that well economically, though things are better here than they are in many other places in the country.
I haven’t ever seen anyone actually get in or out of one of these vehicles, so I haven’t been able to ask the drivers what’s up. I wonder if the economy in Des Moines is truly sucky, or if there have been immigration crackdowns? That still wouldn’t explain why they would be coming here. Most of our growing Mexican community comes from Oaxaca–maybe that’s the original home of Polk County’s Mexicans, too, and so there are lots of connections between the Hispanics there and the Hispanics here? Iowa dopers–any thoughts? (And have you been seeing a sudden influx of New York cars with Hispanics behind the wheel?)