The Economist USA 08.24.2019

(Axel Boer) #1
TheEconomistAugust 24th 2019 17

1

T


he schoolday on August 7th was just
beginning when a counsellor pulled 16-
year-old José out of class. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ice) agents were
raiding seven poultry-processing plants;
did he know anyone who worked at one of
them? He did. José worked afternoon
shifts. His parents worked days, were then
at the plant and, like him, were undocu-
mented. They brought José (not his real
name) and his family to America four years
ago. His thoughts ran to his four brothers
and sisters. If his parents were detained
and deported, who would feed and care for
them? How would they pay rent?
José’s parents ended up among the 303
people released after being arrested that
day. Another 377 remain in icefacilities in
Louisiana and Mississippi. Father Roberto
Mena, parish priest of St Michael’s Church
in nearby Forest, says his parishioners are
frightened. Mark Bowman, a pastor in
neighbouring Carthage, says that when his


parishioners showed up to donate boxes of
food to families of the detained, some
“wouldn’t come to the door, because they
thought we might be ice”.
Barack Obama’s administration de-
ported large swathes of undocumented im-
migrants. But his directives to ICEwere to
avoid sweeping raids. President Donald
Trump has revived them and has moved to
change the way detained migrants are
treated. On August 21st his administration
unveiled plans that could allow for the in-
definite detention of undocumented fam-
ilies—including children—who cross the

border illegally. The new rules would re-
place a decades-old agreement on levels of
care for migrant children and the length of
time the government can detain them.
In 2017 Tom Homan, who then headed
ice, ordered workplace enforcement to be
increased “four or five times” over then-
current levels. The Mississippi raids com-
prised the seventh workplace raid since
April 2018 in which more than 100 people
have been arrested. It was the biggest since
a raid on a slaughterhouse and meatpacker
in Pottsville, Iowa yielded nearly 400 ar-
rests on May 12th 2008, near the end of
George W. Bush’s presidency.
That raid occurred in a different politi-
cal world. Muzaffar Chishti, a lawyer and
policy analyst with the Migration Policy In-
stitute, a think-tank, contends that the
Pottsville raid was intended to nudge con-
gressional Republicans into supporting
immigration reform by showing them how
inhumane enforcement would be without
an agreement. The current raids, says Mr
Chishti, are “the signal of an anti-immigra-
tion president to his base”.
Bryan Cox, an icespokesman, insists
that iceis “equally focused...on those who
unlawfully seek employment [and] the em-
ployers who knowingly hire them”. But be-
tween March 2018 and March 2019 just 11
employers were charged for hiring undoc-
umented workers. None has yet been

Immigration policy


Headless chickens


MORTON, MISSISSIPPI
What a raid on poultry processors says about the Trump administration’s
immigration strategy


United States


18 RuralDemocrats
19 Housingandpoverty
20 Abortionbattles

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