Last week, agents of the Department of Homeland Security raided multiple chicken processing plants in Mississippi. During the sweep, almost 700 workers suspected to be in the country and working illegally were arrested and taken in for processing by Homeland Security. In the wake of the raid, hundreds of children, most of whom are citizens of the US, were left without guardians or even left with no one to pick them up from school. This left family members scrambling to figure out what was happening and arrange caretaking for minor children. Teachers and administrators were also left working with family members to be able make sure children were being taken care of.
Although the operation is officially the largest workplace raid in the history of the United States, little repercussions seem to have fallen on the employers and companies responsible for the hiring. While much of the attention is always focused on the workers rounded up in these raids, rarely do people ever bring up the notion of the hiring practices of the company. In previous cases of these raids, people were swept up but little to no repercussions falling on the employer. Koch Foods, one of the companies raided last week, issued a statement in which they would shut down for one shift before continuing production in order to “minimize customer impact.” They shortly thereafter announced a job fair to fill the vacancies created by the workers they presume will not be returning. The chicken industry and meatpacking industry remain some of the most dangerous industries in the United States, despite industry officials touting the improved safety record, which critics decry is only due to a drop in government inspections. Given the dangerous nature of the profession, the industry is notorious for hiring workers who will not raise issues and will just do the work assigned to them, regardless of danger. This leaves the job to many first generation immigrants who are simply looking for a foot in the door of the economy and a way to provide for their families. Despite past raids, government officials say charges may still be filed against the employers, pending further investigation.