Directions: Watch the video, read the summary and answer the questions below. Follow along with the transcript here.
Summary: Federal immigration officials released 300 of the nearly 700 people arrested the following day after conducting workplace sweeps across Mississippi on Aug. 8th. The raids targeted immigrant workers in food processing plants and are believed to be the largest single-state action of the kind in U.S. history.
The following excerpt is from 3m:39s – 4m:20s of the video:
Jeffrey Brown, NewsHour Correspondent:
I know you’re watching this issue all around the country.
Is the expectation that there are other ongoing investigations and other very large raids like this coming?
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed Reporter:
Yes, I mean, I think we should expect that.
The administration has said, starting at the beginning of last year, that they would ramp up these so-called work site enforcement operations. We have already seen some pretty big operations last year, with a couple hundred people being arrested in one facility.
But this is really just so massive in scope, nearly 700 people. So I think perhaps this could be the beginning of a new era of major work site operations.
Processing chickens is a risky job. Crain’s Chicago Business notes that:
Chicken processing is difficult, sometimes dangerous work. Workers use knives and scissors in close proximity along fast-moving production lines and make the same motions repeatedly…. A 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 29 percent of meat and poultry workers were “foreign-born non-citizens in 2015 compared to about 9.5 percent of all manufacturing workers.”
Many of the poultry companies have been recruiting immigrant workers for many decades, which is one of the reasons that the Hispanic population has grown so rapidly in the South. (According to the Pew Research Center, 9 of the 10 fastest growing Hispanic states between 2000 and 2011 were in the South.)
One company began what it called the “Hispanic Project”, first recruiting Cuban refugees from Miami and then focusing on immigrants from Central and South America. According to a former recruiter for one of the companies, one plant brought nearly 5,000 Hispanic workers to the small town of Morton, MS in the 1990s.
This situation highlights the following point made in 2016 from The Texas Tribune:
The United States, and Texas in particular, has beefed up border security in recent years to keep immigrants out while paying less attention to one of the main factors drawing them here: There are almost always jobs waiting for them, even if securing and maintaining those jobs becomes a test of physical and emotional endurance.
1. Essential question: How do immigration raids affect families and children? (You can read more about the long-term impacts of a large raid on the town of Postville, Iowa, in this article from Colorín Colorado.)
2. After raids like Mississippi are conducted, employers often say they didn’t realize the workers were undocumented. Hiring undocumented workers isn’t against the law, if the employer did so unknowingly. Labor experts and advocates say this is likely untrue but very hard to prove. Do you think authorities should work on prosecuting employers more? How might such prosecutions affect immigration policies?
3. What are some reasons that companies may hire undocumented workers?
4. What impact does hiring low-wage workers have on the cost of products consumers buy?
5. The Mississippi immigration raid happened during the first week of school and many of the detained immigrants were parents. How do you think schools can help students whose parents are detained by immigration authorities during the school day? How would it be different for very young children, elementary or middle and high school students?
6. Media literacy: Take a few minutes to look at several headlines from Aug. 8th, the day after officials made their arrests in Mississippi. What tone do most of the headlines take? What words do you see repeated? How might tone and word choice affect the audience’s understanding of the events?
Chinese laborers were crucial to building the transcontinental railroads across the U.S. in the 19th century. Railway companies recruited laborers from the West Coast and China itself. The work was dangerous and the wages were low. Many workers died.
However, a backlash against the Chinese workers began to grow as their numbers increased, which resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 after the railroads were completed. This is considered the first U.S. immigration law based on ethnicity.
Watch this video from PBS’ American Experience about Chinese laborers on the railway. Do you see any parallels with the situation of immigrant workers today in the U.S.? Why or why not?
- Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project (Stanford University)
- Recommended book: Coolies by Yin
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