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The ICE raid of Agriprocessors, a meat packing plant, is the largest in the history of Iowa, leading to the arrests of about 390 workers on charges of aggravated identity theft, unlawful use of Social Security numbers and other related offenses. And yet again, the employers of these undocumented migrants, Agriprocessors Inc., would probably walk away scot-free, hiring more undocumented workers when the raids are forgotten. After all, Agriprocessors Inc. has a history of non-compliance with federal and state laws, and since the owner is a major contributor to the Republican Party, Agriprocessors has been allowed to operate with small fines now and then.
Rounding up migrant workers to arrest and charge them is not the solution to stopping illegal immigration. It rips families apart, spreading a climate of fear throughout the community, shutting down more businesses, while opening up jobs for a new pool of undocumented workers to fill up. Postville, Iowa, has turned into a ghostown—the raids putting the town into serious economic jeopardy according to residents. If ICE was serious about stopping illegal immigration, the agency would focus on reducing the incentives for undocumented migrants, which includes making it tougher for employers to hire them and getting UCSIS to resolve the issue of visa backlogs.
Agriprocessors Inc. issued a press statement today saying "Our company takes the immigration laws seriously." Anyone paying attention, cannot possibly believe that Agriprocessors hired undocumented workers unknowingly.
The best short-term solution would be to provide full federal protection of labor regardless of immigration status. This would give employers less incentive to hire undocumented workers, as they would be entitled to the same pay and working conditions as any other worker. But since our commitment to labor protections and rights are lax, employers feel free to hire and exploit undocumented migrants, hence driving down wages and working conditions for all workers. And we continue to punish labor, when we should in fact, be going after employers and putting controls on capital flight.