Crackdown Upends Slaughterhouse's WorkForce
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
TAR HEEL, N.C. - Last November, immigration officials began a crackdown at Smithfield Foods's giant slaughterhouse here, eventually arresting 21 illegal immigrants at the plant and rousting others from their trailers in the middle of the night. Since then, more than 1,100 Hispanic workers have left the 5,20o-employee hog-butchering plant, the world's largest, leaving it struggling to find, train and keep replacements. Across the country, the federal effort to flush out illegal immigrants is having major effects on workers and employers alike. Some companies have reluctantly raised wages to attract new workers following raids at their plants. After several hundred immigrant employees at its plant in Stillmore, Ga., were arrested, Crider Poultry began recruiting Hmong workers from Minnesota, hiring men from a nearby homeless mission and providing free van transportation to many workers. So far, Smithfield has largely replaced the Hispanics with American workers, who often leave poorly paid jobs for higher wages at the plant here. But the turnover rate for new workers -many find the work grueling and the smell awful - is twice what it was when Hispanics dominated the work force. Making Smithfield's recruiting challenge even harder is the fact that many local residents have worked there before and soured on the experience. As a result, Smithfield often looks far afield for new employees. Fannie Worley, a longtime resident of Dillon, S.C., a largely African-American town of sagging trailers and ramshackle bungalows, quit her $S.25-an-hour, part-time job making beds at a Days Inn motel four months ago to take a $lo.75-an-hour job at Smithfield. But Ms. Worley remains ambivalent.
"It pays a lot better," she said. "But the trip is too lang." Around 1 p.m. each day, C. ~J.Bailey, a Smithfield worker, picks up Ms. Worley and 10 other employees in his big white van. They arrive at the plant around 2:15, and he drops them back home after 1 a.m. Several of the newly hired workers in the van - they pay $40 a week for the ride - said they were thinking of quitting, unhappy about having to commute so far and work so hard. At the plant, where the pay averages around $12 an hour, many spend hour after hour slitting hogs' throats, hacking at shoulders and carving ribs and loins. At the end of their shifts, many workers complain that their muscles are sore and their minds are numb. Employee turnover has long been a problem at Smithfield and other meatprocessing plants, but the problem has grown worse recently. Dennis Pittman, a Smithfield spokesman, said 60 percent of the new workers quit within go days of being hired, compared with 25 percent to 30 percent two years ago when many new employees were illegal immigrants. "I've heard officials from a couple of other meat processors say they've never seen such high turnover with new workers," Mr. Pittman said. Several Southern companies have raised wages to attract new workers after immigration raids. "But that's not the first thing that employers are going to do," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. "They're going to try to cast their net wider before they do something that will raise costs." Smithfield, for example, has run a flood of television advertisements boasting that the company is a good, safe place to work. The advertisements aim to persuade Carolinians to apply for jobs and to counter arguments made by a union trying to organize the plant that Smithfield jobs are high stress and unsafe, with stingy benefits. One of the toughest challenges, Mr. Pittman said, has been training new employees to handle the highest-skilled jobs at a plant that processes 30,000 hogs a day.
"The big problem is we lost a lot of people who were there a long time," Mr. Pittman said. "We have been facing difficulties in hiring for a number of years, because as the economy got better, the labor market became much tighter." When the plant opened in 1992, the area's jobless rate was high because tobacco was in retreat and textile mills were closing. Early on, most employees were black. That changed with an influx of Hispanic immigrants, most of them Mexicans, in the mid-rcoos. Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, said the Hispanics should not be viewed as shoving blacks aside, because the plant had such high turnover. "It's not as if these jobs were stable sources of employment for creating a black middle class," Mr. Kromm said. The way Hector David, a longtime worker from Mexico who quit in February, sees it, Smithfield had been eager to hire Hispanics because they worked so hard. "The Americans just don't work as well," Mr. David said. "In Mexico, we work from the age of 5 in the corn fields. We're used to working hard." The New York Times wrote about the sometimes uneasy relations between blacks and Hispanics at the Smithfield plant as part of a 2000 series that examined race relations in the United States. Mr. Pittman said Smithfield did its best to ensure that immigrant employees had legitimate documentation. But many workers said Smithfield did not look too hard at the paperwork. Last November, the company notified 640 employees that their identity information did not match government records. In January, federal agents arrested 21 workers at the plant, and in August, helped by information the company provided, agents arrested 28 more, many at home. Mr. Pittman said cooperating with immigration officials "serves our goal of 100 percent compliance 100 percent of the time." But for many families, the cooperation has come at a price.
Tears came to Maritza Cruz's eyes as she described the scene when immigration agents banged on her trailer door at 3 a.m. and arrested her husband, Alejandro, who faces deportation. "Everyone is very scared, especially after they arrested people at their homes," said Mrs. Cruz, who has four children and is on maternity leave from the plant. The company and its employees are not the only ones affected by the crackdown. Since the enforcement actions began, said Jazmin Gastelum, owner of a local Christian bookstore, La Tierra Prometida, business from Hispanic customers has plunged 40 percent at her store and two nearby Hispanic groceries. "A lot of people are going back to Mexico," Ms. Gastelum said. "And a lot who haven't moved are scared to go outside." As for the workers who remain at the plant, many wonder why so many new' employees come from South Carolina. Gene Bruskin, the director of the unionization campaign, sees a simple explanation. "Thousands and thousands of workers from North Carolina have come through the plant, and they left, saying, 'No way: because they were injured or didn't want to work in such an oppressive atmosphere," Mr. Bruskin said. "This plant burned up a large number of people, and the word got around about their bad experiences." Mr. Pittman said Smithfield had hired many workers from South Carolina because the counties close to the plant had a low unemployment rate. The immigration arrests have also created problems for the union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has spent 15 years seeking to organize the plant. "A lot of the people who left or were detained were strong union supporters," said Gabriel Lopez Rivera, a Smithfield worker. Mr. Bruskin, the union official, added, "It's extremely difficult for workers to stand up for their rights when they're threatened "Witharrest or deportation."
The Tar Heel workers voted against unionizing in 1994 and 1997, but the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Smithfield had broken the law by intimidating and firing union supporters. The company has called for a new election, but the union instead wants Smithfield to accept unionization through a majority sign-up, a process that would give management less opportunity to pressure workers. In recent months, union organizers have adopted a new role, rushing to the trailers of immigrant workers facing arrest to ensure that someone can care for their children. Union officials recently organized educational forums at a Roman Catholic church in Red Springs, where immigrant workers were advised, among other things, to sign power of attorney forms designating someone to take care of their children, finances and homes if they were arrested. "I think all this turmoil is helping unionization," said the Rev. Carlos Arce, the priest there, "because people feel alone and unprotected, and they see that the union, along with the Catholic Church, is the only organization that is trying to help them."
NEW YORK, July 22,2009
Report: Immigration Raids Violated Rights
Improper Warrants, Racial Profiling Likely; Latinos Disproportionately Arrested When not Intended Target
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has about 100 Fugitive Operations Teams around the country; m fiscal year 2008, the teams made more than 34,000 arrests.
(AP) Immigration agents raiding homes for suspected illegal immigrants violated the US. Constitution
entering without proper consent and may have used racial profiling, a report analyzing arrest records found. Latinos made up a disproportionate munber of tile people arrested who were not the stated targets of the raids,
and many of their arrest reports gave no basis for why they were initially seized, said the report, which was based on data from raids in New York and New Jersey. The Immigration Justice Clinic at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law analyzed home offices in Long Island and throughout facing deportation. New
raid arrest records from Immigration
and Customs Enforcement
Jersey. The clinic, founded last year, represents indigent immigrants
Its report, released Wednesday, said that since ICE agents use administrative warrants - instead of judicial warrants, which give law enforcement unfettered access - they must have a resident's consent to enter a home or else violate the constitutional right to protection against unreasonable searches.
On Long Island, 86 percent of arrest records from 100 raids between January 2006 and April 2008 showed no record of consent being given, the report found. In northern and central New Jersey, no record of consent being given was found for 24 percent of about 600 arrests in 2006 and 2007, it found. Peter Markowitz, director of the clinic and one of the authors of the report, said raids often are carried out with officials pushing their way into homes in pre-dawn or late-night hours.
great force, with immigration
The raids are ostensibly aimed at targeted individuals who present threats either to national security or community safety, but arrests of illegal immigrants nearby, known as collateral arrests, are also made.
While the report only analyzed data from two states, it said the pattern suggested the problem was nationwide. listed examples from California, Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, A federal judge in Connecticut Georgia and other places. rights of four
last month ruled that federal agents violated the constitutional
illegal immigrants in a 2007 raid under similar issues. The judge ruled the immigration proceedings against the four defendants. illegality by a law enforcement
agents went into the
immigrants' homes without warrants, probable cause or their consent, and he put a stop to deportation
"The widespread said.
agency should be kind of shocking to anybody," Markowitz
In a statement, ICE said its agents uphold the country's laws. "We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness regarding the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter," it said. The agency said it also had a mandate to pursue all illegal immigrants, whether targeted or not. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment further. The agency has about 100 Fugitive Operations Teams around the country; in fiscal year 2008. the teams made more than 34,000 arrests. The report also found that Latinos were a disproportionate number of collateral arrests. In both New Jersey and on Long Island, two-thirds of the targeted detainees were Latino. But 87 percent of coli ateral arrests in New Jersey were Latino, as were 94 percent of the collateral arrests in Long Island. Collateral arrest records can indicate why the person was seized and questioned. Bur the report fO~U1d that almost all the records that didn't contain that information were for Latinos taken into custody The report said that supported community complaints that Latinos were targeted for arrest simply because of how they looked or how well they spoke English. The report makes several recommendations, including limiting the use of home raids to a last resort for targets who pose a serious risk to national security or have violent criminal records; the use of judicial rather than administrative warrants, and the videotaping of all home raids. It also calls for the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to conduct an investigation. "These are violations that go to the very heart ofthe Constitutional expectation of privacy in this country," Markowitz said.
Immigrant activists call out 'Illegal Alien' costumes
• • • • • STORY HIGHLIGHTS Costume comes with jumpsuit, space alien mask and fake Green Card Target, retailers pull product after receiving complaints from advocacy group Some say costume offensive because it depicts illegal immigrants as "not one of us" Others call those who are offended "hyper-sensitive ". illegal alien-supporting nuts"
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Immigrant rights activists are calling on U.S. retailers to stop sellinq two controversial "Illegal Alien" costumes that have surfaced for Halloween, saying the outfits are a broadside attack on illegal immigrants.
Despite iile controversy. some stores say the "magal Alien" costumes have been a hii
The "Illegal Alien Adult Costume," manufactured by Forum novelties, includes an orange jumpsuit, similar to prison garb, with "Illegal Alien" stamped in black across the chest; a space alien mask; and a fake Green Card. The "Illegal Alien Mask with Hat" also includes a space alien mask, this time with a dark handlebar mustache and a baseball cap. The Coalition for Humane lmmigrant Rights of Los Angeles said it began receiving e-mails from concerned legal immigrants on Friday. In response, CHIRLA wrote a leiter asking several retailers, including Target, Walgreens, and Amazon.corn, to stop offering the costume. As of Saturday afternoon, Target had pulled the products, and some links to the costumes on other sites were no longer functional. Target said the "Illegal Alien" costume was inadvertently uploaded to its Web site due to a data entry error. "It is never our intent to offend the consumers with the products we offer," a company statement said. The makers of the costumes could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the director of communications for CHIRLA, said he initially thought the costume was a stab at harmless satire. But when he saw the Green Card, he realized it was an swipe at illegal immigrants. "Th is was an ignora nt attempt to poke fu n at a small commu nfty," said Cabrera.
Political satire and Halloween often merge. Costumes depicting former well-known political figures are often seen along side those depicting Batman or Wonder Woman, To some, the attempted humor of the costumes falls flat Guillermo Iglesias said both of his parents were illegal immigrants in the United States. He felt the costumes were offensive because they depicted illegal immigrants as "not one of us." "I have a lot of illegal immigrant friends," said Iglesias, "If I showed them that costume, it would really hurt them." Despite the controversy, some stores say the costumes have been a hit. "It's a very well-recommended costume," said an employee at Ricky's, a costume store in New York City. The store
has sold seven costumes for $39.99 apiece and is set to receive another shipment. William Gheen, the president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said he intends to buy the costume, and calls the reaction unfounded. "The only people getting upset are the hyper-sensitive, over-politically correct, pro-amnesty, illegal alien-supporting nuts," said Gheen. "You can't attack people's freedom in this country." "I think having a costume like that is distasteful," said Andrea Hill, outside of Ricky's, "But if it's not illegal, I think it's alright for them to sell it"
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he Language of Immigration, Continued
posted by Melissa McEwan
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Last night, Jain and I were talking about yesterday's thread on immigration, and how he isn't catted (or regarded as) an immigrant, when he made this well-observed point: "Oof coourse I'm noot an immigrant," hElsaid wryly, with one raised brow. "I'm an ex-pat." Such a spot-on observation. In between the disparate USElS and meanings of "immigrant" and "ex-pat" (expatriate) everything that underlines the racism, classlsrn, and xenophobta of the immigration debate in America. White, (relatively) wealthy, and English-spElaking immigrants are ex-pats, with· intramural pub clubs and summer festivals set to the distant trill of bagpipes. Non-white, poor, and non-natively English-spElaking immigrants are just immigrants. falls
rugby leagues and dues-drawing
Ex-pats are presumed to have come to America after a revelation that their countries, in which any white person would be happy to live, are nonetheless not as good as America. Immigrants are presumed to have come to America because their countries are shit-holes. with wonderful accents and charming slang.
Ex-pats are romantic and adventurous, Immigrants
are dirty and desperate, with the nefaricus intent of getting their stupid languagEl on all our signs.
An American who marries an ex-pat marries up; an American who marries an immigrant marries down. (Which is why noses wrinkle when I say I'm married to an immigrant, as if immigrant is a slur and I'm insulting lain-and seiling myself short.) And on and on and on the wedge narratives go, creating an artifiCial distinction where none should be, further dElmonizing the people who aren't the undeserved heirs to the high-falutin' alternative to the perfectly practical immigrant. I am married to a man who is regarded as an ax-pat, I have friends Who are regarded as ex-pats, and I have worked at an ESL school in Chicago for adult legal immigrants, where the students are about 90% Latin@-and every last one of them are regardEld as immigrants. And you don't need me to tell you that the differElnces in how they are regarded has nothing to do with anything inherent In anyone of them, and everything to do with the operative prejudices in the country they've all chosen as' their home. They're all immigrants, but ex-patriotism is a privilege, conferred by pale skin and the dumb luck of having been born in an English-spea kl ng cou ntry. Which means the most progressive thing any ex-pat can do is reject the label altogether, and proudly be an immigrant.
nguage-of- im rnigratlon-contin
ued ht m I
I posted by Melissa McEwan I Tuesday, March 03, 2009 So the AP reports that an arrest warrant has been issued in assoclatton with the 2001 murder of Chandra Levy, and either the AP or Yahoo News sticks the report under the headline: "Warrant issued for immigrant in Chandra levy death."
For immigrant? It's accompanied by a mugshot of the suspect, a brown-skinned Salvadoran man named lngmar Guandique. Clearly, we're meant to infer that he is an undocumented Immigrant, and he may be, although the story never says that. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess if lain made the headlines for some reason, he wouldn't be referred to as "immigrant," despite the fact that he is one. And I'm further going to go out on a limb and suggest that's related to the fact that when people have said nasty shit about "immigrants" around me, and I point out I'm married to an immigrant, they explain to me like I'm the fucKing idiot that he's not "that kind" of immigrant. But the immigration debate in this country has nothing to do with racism. of course.
Stereotypes Persist Even Where Immigrants Don't
It's never been easy to be part of the huddled masses. The Statue of Liberty may not be choosy about the wretched refuse she allows in the door, but Americans haven't always been so hospitable. Immigrants from Ireland landed in the transcontinental railroad in the
u.s. in the
only to find shop windows
festooned with signs reading "No Irish Need Apply." The Chinese toiled to build our
only to see the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act signed in
1882,. suspending further immigration. The unwritten rule was simple: pretty much anyone was
welcome, except the newest group - or at least the one arriving in the greatest numbers - who would have a harder go of things. All that's changed, though, right? In our new postracial world, haven't we risen above such petty prejudice? Actually, no, we haven't. But the good news is, we're doing better than you might expect. According to a new study released by a pair of sociology professors, the battle between Lady Liberty and Lou Dobbs is now being fought to a draw, and our better angels may slowly be prevailing.
(See ptcrur-es ofthe
border patrol tracking illegal immigr-aute.)
The research, conducted by Jeffrey Timberlake of the University of Cincinnati and Rhys Williams of Loyola University Chicago, was presented this week at the annual convention of the American Sociological Association, in San Francisco. In order to take America's temperature on the often overheated topic of immigrants, the researchers went to an unlikely place: Ohio. For all its purple-state, heartland rep, large portions of Ohio are still very monochrome - which is to say white - and mostly untouched by on-the-ground experience with people not born in the U.S. Local opinions about immigrants would thus presumably be shaped mostly by what people read or see on TV, combined with a general sense of America's shared melting-pot history. "This makes Ohio ideal for understanding public attitudes ... largely unaffected by actual immigrant levels, the researchers wrote.
Timberlake and Rhys surveyed more than
Ohioans about their attitudes toward four
groups: Europeans, Asians, Middle Easterners and Latinos, specifically asking them about each group's intelligence, income levels, self-sufficiency, ability to assimilate and proclivity toward
violence. The results were often surprising - and often not.
(Read TIME's 1987 cover story on an
Uniformly, Asians finished first in the wealth, intelligence and self-sufficiency categories, followed by Europeans and Middle Easterners, with Latinos finishing last. Asians fell a notch, to second, in willingness to assimilate, with Europeans taking the top spot. When it came to violence, the order was reversed: Latinos on top, then Middle Easterners, then Europeans and Asians. "In some respects, this was exactly what we expected," says Timberlake. The stereotypes of wealthy, studious Asians and ready-to-fit-in Europeans have been fixed in the public mind for years now, and endure even in homogenous communities in which the need for real assimilation ended long ago. The extremely low marks for Latinos, on the other hand, are of more recent vintage. Immigrants from south of the border may never have enjoyed the same cultural cachet as, say, those from France or England, but the cratering of their numbers is almost surely the result of more than two years of campaign-trail rhetoric and cable fulminations on the issue of illegal Mexican immigrants. "I can't say for certain how the data would have been different in the pre- Lou Dobbs or Glenn Beck era," says Timberlake, "bnt it seems we're seeing the reflection of the general debate."
(See pj etur-es of the fence between the
Still, there's happy news within the findings. Timberlake was especially pleased by the relatively positive marks given Middle Easterners - hardly something that would have been expected after Sept. 11. "Even in the post-9/11 context, we're not seeing Middle Easterners stirring much fear, or at least as much as we thought," says Timberlake. Indeed, they stir a fair amount of respect, with 75% of respondents not questioning their self-sufficiency, 81% having no quarrel with their intelligence and 69% rejecting the stereotype that they are generally poor. Similarly, though Asians must often combat a reputation for standoffishness, just 38% of Ohioans saw them that way. And while only 31% of respondents believed Latinos were selfsufficient enough to get by withont government handouts, another 23% had no opinion, meaning the idea that immigrants from the Spanish-speaking world cannot get by without the federal dole is now, at least, a minority view.
That may be small consolation for the Latino community, which just saw one of its members ascend to the Supreme Court but must still struggle for basic respect. Yet the study does suggest ways to fix the problem. For one thing, Timberlake says, the cable ranters should pipe down or the audience should switch them off. "These people are entertainers seeking attention," he says. "I don't see the value of ginning up hatred of a particular group. All that does is diminish our chance to solve the problem." Hard economic times - and the desperation with which people who still have jobs guard them - may also be exacerbating the problem. So as the fiscal crisis eases, the anti-immigrant bias may too. Most important, says Timberlake, is to remember U.S. history. Every immigrant group that was demonized and ostracized eventually overcame the prejudice and became part ofthe nation's cultural quilt. "we've seen this movie before," he says. It almost always ends happily.