Cruelty for Cruelty’s Sake

Perhaps you missed this story if you’re not much of a news watcher, but last week, on the first day of school in Mississippi, ICE raided a poultry processing factory and rounded up 680 immigrants. Even though the raid was planned well in advance, there was no warning for the affected families. Which means their kids came home from the first day of school to find the house locked and their parents gone without a word.

You may have seen heart-breaking footage of these children, who are American citizens, crying and begging for their parents back.

Please note: The raid was planned in advance. But the planners did not call Child Protective Services so that they could prepare to receive these suddenly orphaned children.

This is cruelty for cruelty’s sake.

It may remind you of this passage in Anne Frank’s journal:

“Terrible things are happening outside… poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.” — Anne Frank (Jan 13, 1943)

Like me, you may be wondering what kind of mental gymnastics is required to justify this cruelty. Like me, you may be wondering what consequences the employer, Koch Foods, will face; the employer who provided fake SSNs for the employees and knowingly hired them — not despite their immigration status, but because of their immigration status — which allows the employer to exploit their labor, to pay them less than a legal wage, and not be held accountable for horrible work environments.

From what I’ve read, apparently, Koch Foods will face zero consequences for their illegal actions. I could scream.

Something else you may not have heard — the raid came after Koch Foods settled a $3.75 million sexual harassment lawsuit:

The lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Koch Food Inc’s alleged “that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.”

Many immigrants rights advocates have speculated that workers are targeted for raids after their facilities get investigated for worker abuse. 

Remember, these are not criminals that are being rounded up. These are not dangerous people. These are people willing to take jobs that no one else is willing to take. The rotisserie chicken you pick up tonight after work? Your affordable dinner is made possible by these workers.

But that’s not all. Something else I learned is that the poultry industry in the south has spent the last 25 years actively recruiting immigrants to work at their plants in an effort to exploit their labor. And those immigrants have now established vibrant, deep-rooted communities in the South — which are being targeted and destroyed by ICE.

If your first thought is, well, it’s their own fault, they should have gone through the proper immigration channels, just stop. Read this tweet and the comments in response about how difficult and racist our immigration system is. If you are brown or black, it can takes decades and cost thousands of dollars. If you are white, it’s pretty fast and straightforward.

Lastly, there’s more news today. The Trump administration “announced they will penalize legal immigrants who rely on public programs, such as food stamps and government-subsidized housing, as part of a sweeping new policy to slow legal immigration into the United States and reduce the number of immigrants who are granted permanent legal status.

Who is this likely to impact the most? The children of these immigrants — and remember, the children are U.S. citizens.

So don’t try and argue that people just need to come here legally. It’s not about legal immigration and it never has been. Remember, there are over 600,000 people from Europe and Canada living in the U.S. with expired visas, but we haven’t seen any of them rounded up and put in cages.

Are these stories news to you? Or have you been following these headlines? How are you feeling about all this? My friend Laura Mayes, who lives in Texas, has been going directly to immigration processing centers to figure out how to help. I’m hoping she can write up what she’s learned and share it with us.

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