June 22, 2018
Crying toddlers being snatched from their parents’ arms and images of young people huddled behind fences in detention centers exploded into a political crisis for President Donald Trump and Congress, as they sat idle while people of every persuasion denounced the practice of separating immigrant children from their families.
Caving under mounting political pressure, President Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of families at the border, despite administration officials’ insistence that only Congress could resolve the situation.
The anguish doesn’t stop at the border. Two weeks ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 114 workers at a gardening company in Ohio. In April, ICE raided a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee and arrested 97 immigrants. In January, ICE raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide, adding to the mounting arrests.
This week, ICE arrested 146 immigrants at a meat-processing plant in Northern Ohio. ICE said a year-long investigation into Fresh Mark revealed that the company may have knowingly hired undocumented workers.
“Unlawful employment is one of the key magnets drawing illegal aliens across our borders,” Steve Francis, a special agent in charge for the Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post. “Businesses who knowingly harbor and hire illegal aliens as a business model must be held accountable for their action.”
Although ICE released several suspects for “humanitarian concerns, such as health or family considerations,” the agency said most of the undocumented workers “will be detained in facilities in Michigan and Ohio while awaiting removal proceedings.”
The tragic impact of the investigation is readily apparent. Families separated, children afraid to go home, parents in fear of further arrests. Those left behind unable to support themselves.
However, that is only the initial impact and it is concentrated on those directly attached to the arrests. In time, those indirectly connected will begin to feel the pain of these raids.
Elizabeth Oglesby, an associate Professor of Latin American Studies and Geography at the University of Arizona, conducted research in Massachusetts, Iowa, and South Carolina during the President George W. Bush era. She found that large-scale raids are local disasters, even for those not directly affected.
In an article first published in The Conversation, she cited the impact of mass immigration arrests.
Postville, Iowa, suffered immensely after an ICE raid on a company known as Agriprocessors. The company nearly collapsed after losing its workforce, devastating the small town’s economy. The plant stopped paying property taxes, real estate values plummeted, and local restaurants and other businesses closed.
To stay in business, Agriprocessors hired a string of temporary legal workers, mostly young, single men, including early release prisoners, and homeless people. The sense of instability and unease in the town, made inhabitants yearn for the undocumented workers and their families.
Oglesby wrote about an ICE raid in 2007, at the Michael Bianco factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The plant made backpacks for the Pentagon. Six hundred ICE agents arrested 361 people causing economic hardship throughout the region.
In 2008, ICE raided the House of Raeford poultry plant on the outskirts of Greenville, South Carolina, arresting more than 300 workers.
A House of Raeford manager told the Charlotte Observer that 90 percent of his 800-person plant is Latino and turnover exceeds 100 percent a year.
It is unclear how many illegal immigrants work in the labor-intensive, unskilled poultry industry, reported the Observer. One 2006 study estimated more than a quarter of meat-processing workers nationwide were undocumented.
The residual effect of an immigration raid not only removes the illegal workers from their jobs but also the law abiding legal immigrants and the able-bodied red blooded American citizens, as well.
Postville lost one-third of its population after the 2007 raid, as undocumented workers who evaded arrest fled. Oglesby described how high school students in Postville made a photo banner to remember friends whose desks were suddenly empty.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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