Friday, February 9, 2007

The Human Impacts of the Swift Raids

A couple articles makes one pause in evaluating the effectiveness of last decembers immigration raids at the Swift meatpacking plants.

The Washington Post (here) ran an article "Immigration Raid Leaves Texas Town a Skeleton" by Sylvia Moreno discussing the impacts of the December 12 immigration raid on the town of Cactus, Texas.  On Dec. 12, hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents clad in riot gear and armed with assault rifles descended on the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in a coordinated raid of six of the company's facilities nationwide. The operation was the government's largest single work-site enforcement operation ever. The plant in little Cactus -- a town better known in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and in the department of Quiché, Guatemala, where workers came from, than in Texas -- was the largest one raided. Almost a quarter of the 1,282 suspected illegal immigrants arrested in the raids were removed from the Cactus plant.

The article begins with this description:

The streets of this small, isolated city in the Texas Panhandle are virtually empty nowadays, and "For Rent" signs decorate dilapidated trailers and shabby 1940s-era military barracks that just weeks ago were full of tenants. Sales of tortillas and other staples are down. Money wire transactions to Central America have mostly dried up. The "Guatemalas," as local residents call them, are almost all gone, and so are a significant number of Mexican nationals. An estimated 12 to 18 children are now living with only one parent since the other was arrested in a massive immigration raid at the biggest employer in town.

In "Lockdown in Greeley" in The Nation (here) by Marc Cooper (February 26, 2007 issue], a similar report comes from Greeley Colorado.

On the northern edge of this frozen-over city of 90,000 halfway between Denver and Cheyenne, Swift & Co.'s beef processing plant squats like a windowless concrete bunker alongside the snow-covered railroad tracks. The winter air hangs heavy with the stench of animal waste. And the three strings of barbed wire atop the chain-link fence that girdles the facility give the hulking complex all the appeal of some forsaken, remote prison. Nevertheless, the steam snaking high and gently from the plant's smokestacks has for several decades served as a beacon of hope and promise for thousands of immigrants, mostly Mexican, who have come north looking for a better life.

****

Now critics of the raids--workers, union reps, clergy, community leaders, policy analysts and lawyers--wonder what the high-profile sweep accomplished other than to traumatize a few hundred Latino families and to cost Swift an estimated $30 million in lost production. If anything, it starkly reveals, once again, a federal immigration policy completely detached from economic and social realities and a Bush White House incapable of moving ahead with much-promised reform. "What has changed because of all this?" rhetorically asks Francisco Granados, a Greeley businessman and volunteer providing relief services to the affected families. "Nothing. Nada. The whole system is set up to make you lie."

KJ

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2007/02/the_human_impac.html

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