Vera said if robbers ever came to their home, he'd tell them: "Llevar todo, no importa," or "Take it all. It doesn't matter."
Their son hasn't slept much since that night. He fears the attackers could come for him.
"Every sound I hear," the boy said, "I think it's something bad."
Capt. Eric Pope of the Sampson County Sheriff's Office said he could not provide statistics on attacks and home invasions targeting Hispanics because his agency is upgrading its computer systems. But he acknowledged that migrant workers have long been a target for criminals because of a perception that they rarely use banks.
Crimes against the workers ebb and flow with the growing season but have been a pervasive problem in Sampson and surrounding counties for decades.
In 2004, a group of Honduran gang members were arrested for breaking into Hispanics' homes in Sampson and nearby counties. In May 2011, nine Hispanics in Lumberton were robbed, assaulted and shot at during three home invasions that police believed to be related.
Bladen and Robeson counties have recent reports of similar crimes.
In August, a Bladen County blueberry farmer said one of his workers discovered his home was cleared out shortly after he had left for the fields around 6:30 a.m.
"They'd already wiped him out, taken everything," said the farmer, Dale Smith. "The cash, all their electronic devices, anything they could turn to cash."
Even their clothes were gone, Smith said.
The Bladen County Sheriff's Office investigated the break-in but never found the thieves.
It was obvious, Smith said, that the robbers had been watching the workers.
"Must've been waiting in the woods there," he said.
Smith employs a few hundred migrant workers at his Ammon blueberry farm. His crews have reported a couple of robberies this year, and he has hired off-duty deputies during payroll time.
Smith said the Sheriff's Office has increased patrols around the farm, and he believes deputies are doing all they can with limited resources. But he does not believe the situation has improved for Hispanics.
Other sheriff's offices in surrounding counties said the recent robberies or home invasions do not show a clear pattern of one ethnic group being targeted. But Pope said crimes against Hispanics are certainly underreported because many of the victims are afraid to talk to lawmen. They may be in America illegally, or they may be from a country where police can't be trusted.
"In some countries, there's not much that separates the police from the criminal element except the badge," Pope said.
Lasaro Ramirez wakes up four or five times a night to make sure his wife and three children are safe. Their modest white home off N.C. 24, just west of Clinton, is next to a sweet potato field. That's where robbers have repeatedly struck a migrant camp, including twice on the weekend before Thanksgiving.
"I've lived here 10 years and I've never been scared," Ramirez said in broken English. "And right now, this year, yeah, I'm scared."
He does not trust law officers to respond quickly to emergency calls by Spanish speakers. He tells his wife that if anything bad happens, call his brother, who has an American wife, and tell them to call 911.
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