ICE’s Raids Were a Win for Corporate Exploitation

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Destroying families won't end migration. But it will make abused workers less likely to speak up.

New Republic - August 12, 2019

"The dependence on cheap labor is built into these companies. Koch Foods has already announced a job fair for Monday. Activists recall that after a major raid a decade ago in Postville, Iowa, that led to the deportation of 400 immigrants, workers were brought in from out of state, and the company hired members of the Somali refugee community and Native American communities."

In Canton, Mississippi, where they account for only 5 percent of the population, Latinos were often seen but not heard. Their children would translate for them at parent-teacher conferences, as generations of kids have done for their immigrant parents.

That changed last week, as a sweeping immigration raid of seven poultry plants swept up 680 undocumented workers, leaving children sobbing and wives tearfully saying goodbye to husbands through chain-link fences as authorities processed workers. For many children, it was their first day of school, one that some ended sleeping in a gym after their parents were detained. On Sunday, Trump administration officials conceded that “the timing was unfortunate,” coming on the heels of a white-supremacist hate crime that targeted Mexicans, shattered the El Paso community, and left Latinos across the country fearing the political climate will lead to future violence aimed at those who look like them.

Even more troublingly, the plants raided included those owned by Koch Foods, which in August 2018 paid $3.75 million to settle a lawsuit alleging racial and sexual harassment against Latina workers at these plants. The suit alleged that “supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to Hispanic female employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.” As part of the settlement, Koch Foods—no relation to the Republican mega-donors—agreed to create a 24-hour bilingual hotline for worker complaints. While there is currently no evidence that the raid was connected, the history of exploitation here has made the raids feel especially cruel. And activists worry the example of Canton will also have devastating effects for communities elsewhere—all, contrary to right-wing talking points, without having any meaningful effect on migration.

“I don’t know if they came after them because of the litigation or not, but ultimately the effect is the same,” said Caitlin Berberich, an attorney at Southern Migrant Legal Services (SMLS), in Tennessee, which represented the workers. “I know how hard it is for immigrant workers to get to the point to speak out about their abuses. Honestly, the majority of the people we speak to, their rights are being violated, but most people do a cost-benefit analysis on the potential risk they face if they speak up. So to me the raids don’t serve any real purpose but to push people further underground, discouraging workers from feeling comfortable to assert their rights.” ...
Read full report at New Republic

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