A Mississippi community is reeling from the aftermath of one of the largest worksite immigration raids in history. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers swept through seven chicken processing plants in the rural region of Morton Wednesday, arresting 680 suspected unauthorized workers. Dozens of children arrived home from school to find their parents gone.
ICE says the operation was about enforcing US immigration laws that make it illegal for immigrants to work in the US without authorization. While it’s true that ICE officers with a warrant have the authority to raid workplaces, Wednesday’s operation sheds new light on the cruelty of the US immigration system.
But even more so, it also reveals a fundamental flaw in US immigration policy.
American immigration laws do practically nothing to address the main cause of illegal immigration: super high demand for low-skill work, and not enough workers available to fill those jobs. There’s practically no way for a low-skilled worker from Guatemala to “wait in line” for a visa to take a job at a chicken processing plant in Mississippi. Only one such visa exists — the EB-3 visa — but it’s limited to a tiny number of people (5,000 max).
Yet the US economy needs hundreds of thousands of workers to fill these jobs right now. The US is experiencing a serious labor shortage, and it’s harder for businesses to find low-skilled workers these days than high-skilled workers.
However, employers have no way to hire immigrants for jobs like those at chicken processing plants. And instead of creating pathways for low-skilled immigrants to work legally in the US, Trump has proposed an immigration plan that would specifically favor immigrants with advanced college degrees. If the Trump administration wants stop illegal immigration, he needs to do the opposite.
The line into America isn’t open to certain immigrants
The best chance for a poor, low-skilled Central American immigrant to work in the US is through one of two guest worker programs: The H2A program for agricultural workers and the H2B program for seasonal work, which includes jobs at hotels, amusement parks, and landscaping firms.
By Alexia Fernández Campbell for VOX.COM
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