In this file:


·         Chicken Plants See Little Fallout From Immigration Raids

·         ICE used ankle monitors, informants to plan immigration raids where 680 people were arrested

·         Documents: Plant owners ‘willfully’ used ineligible workers

·         'As Iowan as cornfields': How immigration changed one small town



Chicken Plants See Little Fallout From Immigration Raids


Scott Horsley, Heard on All Things Considered, NPR

August 9, 2019


Federal agents carried out one of the largest immigration raids in recent history this week, arresting nearly 700 workers at chicken processing plants in Mississippi.


But you can still buy a rotisserie bird at your local supermarket tonight for less than $10.


So far, the government crackdown has had little effect on the wider food processing industry, a dangerous business that is heavily reliant on immigrant labor.


The Trump administration says its crackdown helps discourage illegal immigration. But workers' advocates warn it leaves vulnerable employees open to exploitation and unsafe working conditions.


"Americans really need to think about where their chicken and where their beef and their pork comes from and really demand that the industry raise labor standards," says Debbie Berkowitz, who directs a health and safety program at the National Employment Law Project.


Authorities raided seven Mississippi poultry plants on Wednesday, arresting 680 people suspected of living in the country illegally. So far, no charges have been brought against the five companies that run the plants, although federal officials say that could change as the investigation is ongoing.


The Trump administration has focused considerable resources on workplace immigration probes. Investigations and audits more than tripled last year, and arrests of workers rose even more. But there was no comparable increase in the number of employers cited.


"These enforcement actions are always aimed toward the workforces," says Ted Genoways, whose 2014 book, The Chain, focuses on the food processing industry. "No one ever seems to ask how it is that a company comes to employ a factory full of people who do not have legal immigration status."


Genoways says that is reminiscent of other high-profile raids on a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, in 2008 and at half a dozen Swift plants in 2006.


"In all those cases, there were work stoppages, huge numbers of people swept up, families divided, but little to no consequences for the people who did the hiring," he says. "And those plants were back up and in production in fairly short order."


Koch Foods, one of the companies raided in Mississippi this week, said in a statement that it closed for one shift on Wednesday but planned to keep operating to "minimize customer impact." The company also advertised a hiring fair in Mississippi next Monday and advised job applicants to bring two forms of ID.


Koch Foods (no relation to Charles and David Koch, the majority shareholders of Koch Industries) — paid nearly $4 million last year to settle a complaint brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Latina workers at the company's plant in Morton, Miss., accused the company of both racial and sexual harassment. The company admitted no wrongdoing.


Another of the companies raided this week, Peco Foods, had two workers suffer amputations last year at a chicken processing plant in Arkansas.


The chicken industry boasts that its processing plants have gotten safer. The rate of workplace injuries was cut by half between 2003 and 2016. But poultry workers are still twice as likely to suffer serious injuries and six times as likely to contract a workplace illness as other private sector employees.


Berkowitz, who was chief of staff at OSHA during the Obama administration, says those numbers are likely understated, because of declining government inspections...


more, including links, audio [3:49 min.]



ICE used ankle monitors, informants to plan immigration raids where 680 people were arrested


Jimmie E. Gates and Alissa Zhu, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Aug. 10, 2019


Over more than a decade, hundreds of undocumented workers across the country told federal officials they worked at food processing plants in Mississippi.


In some instances, immigrants were released from detention and outfitted with ankle monitors while awaiting deportation proceedings. Authorities tracking their GPS coordinates were able to see they were coming and going from Mississippi food processing plants.


On Wednesday, hundreds of immigration officials descended on seven Mississippi plants owned by four companies — Peco Foods, Koch Foods, PH Food and Pearl River Foods. They are suspected of "willfully and unlawfully employing" undocumented workers, recently unsealed search warrants say.


Workers reported hearing the roar of helicopters and seeing agents round up mostly Latino workers for questioning. Many wept as they waved goodbye to their family and friends being carted away on buses for processing.


It was the largest immigration sting of its kind in more than a decade. A total of 680 people were arrested. Of those, about 300 were released the same day, officials said. Those who remain in detention are being held in a ICE facility in Louisiana.


As for the companies, no fines or arrests have taken place, though federal officials say investigations into the companies are ongoing.


What did federal authorities know? How long have they been monitoring these companies? ...


Undocumented immigrants wore ankle monitors to work, told authorities where they lived ...


What penalties could the companies face? ...


What do the companies say? ...





Documents: Plant owners ‘willfully’ used ineligible workers


By Jeff Amy, Associated Press

August 9, 2019


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Six of seven Mississippi chicken processing plants raided Wednesday were “willfully and unlawfully” employing people who lacked authorization to work in the United States, including workers wearing electronic monitoring bracelets at work for previous immigration violations, according to unsealed court documents.


Federal investigators behind the biggest immigration raid in a decade relied on confidential informants inside the plants in addition to data from the monitoring bracelets to help make their case, according to the documents.


The sworn statements supported the search warrants that led a judge to authorize Wednesday’s raids, and aren’t official charges, but give the first detailed look at the evidence involved in what Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have described as a yearlong investigation.


Officials arrested 680 people during Wednesday’s operation . Three Democratic congressmen on Friday demanded that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice produce information. They want to know the cost of the raids, whether employers face criminal charges, whether any U.S. citizens were detained, how many parents were separated from children and whether any still remain separated.


The statements unsealed Thursday allege that managers at two processing plants owned by the same Chinese man actively participated in fraud. They also show that supervisors at other plants at least turned a blind eye to evidence strongly suggesting job applicants were using fraudulent documents and bogus Social Security numbers.


The documents say electronic monitoring bracelet data shows people previously arrested for immigration violations and not allowed to work in the U.S. were working at all seven plants raided.


There have historically been few criminal convictions for hiring people without documents because prosecutors must prove employers knowingly hired someone without legal work authorization. Employers often say they were fooled by fraudulent documents.


From October 2018 to May there were eight new prosecutions for hiring people working illegally and four new convictions nationwide. Among those who have been sentenced to prison are the owner of an Iowa meatpacking plant raided in 2008 and owner of a Tennessee meatpacking plant raided last year.


Companies can also face administrative fines based on audits of I-9 forms, which employees fill out when they’re hired, presenting documents to prove they can work legally work.


Investigators allege the most brazen fraud took place at two smaller chicken processing plants — PH Food Inc. in Morton and A&B Inc. in Pelahatchie. Sworn statements identify Huo You Liang of California, known to Mississippi employees as Victor, as owner of both.


A PH Food employee, acting as a confidential informant, told Homeland Security investigators that the vast majority of the 240 employees at PH’s plant in Morton and the 80 employees at A&B’s plant in Pelahatchie didn’t have proper work documents, including many Guatemalans.


The informant said employees used their real names and made-up Social Security numbers to apply for jobs at PH and A&B. “The payroll companies, as well as PH Food Inc. and A&B Inc. do not verify the authenticity of their documents,” the informant told investigators. Mississippi state law requires employers to check documents using E-Verify, an otherwise voluntary online federal system.


Calls to A&B and PH Food on Friday went unanswered.


The evidence also included a video and audio conversation involving secretary Heather Carrillo and the informant, recorded May 14 at PH in Morton. A summary says, “Carrillo said that she was looking for some ‘papers’ for ‘Iris,’ but ‘Iris wasn’t going anywhere because she was working with Victor (Huo You Liang) for a good time (duration of employment).’” It says Carrillo said A&B manager Salvador Delgado didn’t want it reported because Carrillo knew which of his employees were real and which were fraudulent.


The agent notes investigators believe Delgado was embezzling...


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'As Iowan as cornfields': How immigration changed one small town


By Claire Potter, ABC News

Aug 12, 2019


MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — When Maria Gonzalez was 3 years old, her mother heard from family who had already immigrated to the U.S. that she could find work in Marshalltown, Iowa.


She followed their advice and took her two young children from Villachuato, their small town in central Mexico, to take a job on the line of the town's meat-processing plant, Swift & Co. That was in the 1990s. Today, though its name has changed, the plant remains the largest employer in the town.


For the Gonzalez family, the transition from Mexico wasn’t easy. They were undocumented, and Gonzalez’s mother didn’t speak English. When Maria Gonzalez started kindergarten, the school didn’t have an English as a second language program. But she learned English quickly, and by the time she was 10, she was helping her mother navigate everything from paying bills to registering her younger siblings for school.


Nearly 30 years later, Marshalltown is home to Gonzalez’s husband and children, her three younger siblings, and her mother.


“At this point,” Gonzalez said, "we have roots over roots."


The Gonzalez family was part of a wave of Latin American immigrants who came to Iowa beginning in the early 1990s. They were not the first Latinos to come to Iowa, but the 1990s marked the beginning of a rapid demographic shift: Iowa’s Latino population would increase by 480% between 1990 and 2018, according to the Iowa Data Center. Currently, the Latino population makes up 6% of Iowa’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and by 2050 that number is projected to double to 12%, according to Woods & Poole Economics, a firm that specializes in long-term demographics projection.


Like other towns across rural Iowa with meat-packing plants, Marshalltown experienced this shift more intensely than other parts of the state.


The town of about 27,000 was virtually all white for most of its history. In 1990, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that only 248 Latinos lived in Marshalltown, but as of 2017, the Census Bureau estimates that approximately 29% of its population is Latino.


Local officials say this is likely an underestimate considering how many residents are undocumented. Over time, this demographic shift will become even more pronounced as the superintendent of the Marshalltown Community School District estimates that 70% of the town’s kindergarten students would be counted as an ethnic minority.


When asked about the minority enrollment in the town’s six elementary schools, Superintendent Theron Schutte estimated, “I'd say 64% non-white, close to 70% in kindergarten.”


Today, Marshalltown’s diversity is itself a draw. Mike Tupper moved to Marshalltown nearly eight years ago to become the town’s chief of police. Remembering why he took the job, he said, “my wife and I were looking for an opportunity to work in a diverse community, in a place that looks like the rest of the world. I think that's a great opportunity for our children to grow up in.” Now, his son is starting the first grade in a majority-minority classroom.


Marshalltown’s transformation wasn’t without tension...


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