The Corner

Immigration

What Do the Latest ICE Raids Augur?

ICE officers look on after executing search warrants and making some arrests at an agricultural processing facility in Canton, Miss., August 7, 2019. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via Reuters)

This week’s ICE raids of chicken plants in Mississippi, which apprehended 680 illegal workers, has generated the usual howls of outrage from the pro-illegal-immigration crowd. There was a tsunami of “but look at the crying children!” variety of coverage, but the award for the most unhinged response goes to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), founded 90 years ago as a pro-assimilation patriotic organization, which denounced the raids as “state terrorism“.

Actually, it’s long overdue. Enforcement the ban on hiring illegal aliens has been laughably flaccid, under both Republicans and Democrats, as Pulitzer Prize winner Jerry Kammer laid out here. Tom Homan pledged two years ago that ICE would step up worksite enforcement and there has, in fact, been an increase. One of the obstacles, though, has been bureaucratic — the bureau within ICE responsible for such work, Homeland Security Investigations, is largely led by former Customs Service guys who couldn’t care less about immigration. That’s one reason under Obama the ICE press releases were mainly about counterfeit Gucci handbags and illegal imports of ancient artifacts and the like.

Fine, but without illegal aliens, who will debone the chicken? As happened after the 2006 Swift & Co. meatpacking raids, the targeted plants will raise wages and cast their recruitment net wider. And there are plenty of potential workers. My colleague Steven Camarota coincidentally published a report this week showing that Mississippi has the lowest labor-force participation rate of any state; in the first quarter of this year, only 62 percent of non-college native-born adults in Mississippi were working or actively looking for work. That’s fully 20 points lower than first-place Iowa, and a 12-point drop even from Mississippi’s rate during the same period in 2000. The idea that we’re running out of potential workers, even in today’s good economy, is comical. It may well be that those American workers who don’t already have a job are harder to employ – ex-cons, maybe, or recovering addicts or what have you. But importing foreign workers to fill entry-level jobs not only does nothing to address their employability problems; instead, it’s a crutch that enables us to ignore the problems of our own workers. To be blunt, too many employers are satisfied with leaving marginal American workers to their welfare checks and opioids, and importing foreigners to take their place.

Another critique of such raids is that they’re just body-count exercises – a few illegals are deported, the rest get jobs elsewhere, and the employers get a slap on the wrist, if that. This is a real danger. But a clue that this operation might be different comes in the ICE press release, which referred to “seizing business records pertaining to the ongoing federal criminal investigation”. While it can be easy to deport the illegal workers, especially if they’re among the 1 million illegals who’ve ignored deportation orders and become fugitives, the law makes it much more difficult to make a criminal case stick against the employers. But even here, raids like this are essential, as we saw with the 2008 raid against a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. That plant had been suspected of all kinds of labor violations for years – wage and hour, occupational safety, child labor, you name it – but neither state nor federal investigators could ever get the evidence they needed. But when the plant was raided, many of the illegal workers were charged with their own crimes – ID theft, tax fraud, perjury, etc. – and that gave prosecutors leverage to get them to rat out the management in exchange for leniency. Let’s hope that’s what the feds have in mind in Mississippi.

Also this week, the Washington Post published the latest in its series of stories on illegal workers at various Trump properties. There’s nothing particularly new in this story, which focuses on illegal aliens who worked at a Trump-owned construction company – the paper has been documenting for months now that illegals have worked at Trump golf clubs and resorts, and the president’s sons, who run the operations, have said they’re signing up all their properties with E-Verify (a few had already been using it, but most weren’t). They should have enrolled in E-Verify in 2015, at the latest, in preparation for the campaign, but better late than never. Reporting like this is important to make sure they follow through.

But one nugget from the story was interesting, if unsurprising: “Another immigrant who worked for the Trump construction crew, Edmundo Morocho, said he was told by a Trump supervisor to buy fake identity documents on a New York street corner.” This is probably true, though it happened 19 years ago, and the supervisor is both retired and blind, so it’s too late to make any charges stick. Nonetheless, the Post should turn over to ICE the names of any current supervisors they’re told about who engaged in illegal activity. ICE may follow through, or not – either way it’s news and people should know.

But something the president had said last month points to assignment for ICE: “Probably every club in the United States has that [illegal workers], because it seems to me, from what I understand, a way that people did business.”

So let’s see some arrests at golf courses, too.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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