One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that everyone has become much more aware of the food supply chain—and meat-packing and processing plants are at the center of that chain. Some plants have seen COVID-19 outbreaks, and some have even had to shut down. Employees at meat-packing plants were declared essential workers, and many of these essential workers are Latinx.
There are about fifty chicken-processing plants in the state of Mississippi. They provide a much-needed food supply to the country and beyond, but staffing these places is not easy. Over the decades, many locals have turned to other, less onerous jobs. And that’s why the industry is a hub for immigrant workers, many of whom are undocumented.
On August 7, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived at seven chicken processing plants in central Mississippi and arrested 680 workers. Many of them were fathers and mothers whose kids were left behind for days, weeks, or even months.
Today, many families are still dealing with the consequences of those arrests. They remain unable to work, as they grapple with traumatic psychological repercussions. Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa and Miguel Macias traveled to the heart of Mississippi to hear about the long term effects of the largest immigration raid in U.S. history.
Featured illustration by Alex Charner.
3 thoughts on “After The Mississippi Raids”
I greatly appreciated this show bringing a humane perspective to the families that are buffeted by our immigration rules.
However, I would like to suggest that you do a segment on the illegal employers who knowingly recruit and hire undocumented workers but never face prosecution or even criticism for their actions. Immigrant workers are here ONLY because employers are dead set on paying excessively low wages.
There are no jobs “that Americans won’t do.” There are only jobs that employers will not pay high enough wages to attract employees. Consequently, immigrants trapped in a system that abuses them and forces them to live in fear and poverty.
The solution to our need for agricultural workers is not a wall and employers who commit crimes by knowingly employing workers with forged documents or no documents at all. We need immigration reform that allows ample legal access to for the immigrants that American employers (like our President) prefer to hire.
I spoke to people at the store today about those who provide the produce we find so plentifully and those who are raped or wages stolen, in the fields, and they cannot go to police because they lack documentation. There would be no produce without these essential workers that we never think about.
Yesterday, my local public radio station re-broadcast Part 1 of Latino USA’s “After the Mississppi Raid,” so I had the opportunity to hear it for the first time. I know there’s a part 2 so perhaps that segment will include some unforgivably omitted information that was absent in part 1, such as ( mentioned by commenter Bruce Hilpert on 8-9-2020): what legal and political consequences did the owners of the raided plants face for hiring undocumented employees, since we know it’s not unheard of for some companies to knowingly hire undocumented people? Host Maria Hinojosa says that the plants “claimed they had used” a federal program known as “e-Verify” but that “later it was revealed that the system hadn’t been used the way it was supposed to.” Why does Hinojosa fail to include even one sentence elaborating on that key point, informing listeners that the e-Verify system is recognized as administratively unworkable or that those companies knowingly circumvented the e-Verify system or that they inadequately trained or supervised their HR staff, who subsequently failed to operate e-Verify “as it was supposed to” be used? There were other unforgivably omitted or overlooked aspects in part 1 that made it a puzzlingly substandard piece of journalism, such as informing listeners WHY ICE let go nearly 300 of the 680 detained undocumented workers after including that fact in this podcast. Note to Hinojosa: why do you think listeners wouldn’t be curious about that aspect of ICE’s 8-7-2019 raid?