The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a research organization that favors restricting immigration, released a report Wednesday analyzing a set of immigration raids at six Swift meatpacking plants conducted in December 2006 in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Utah. The raids led to the arrest of about 1,300 workers on immigration charges.
Although CIS advocates the crackdown on illegal aliens through raids such as these, the report actually makes a persuasive case for the legalization of many currently undocumented immigrants –- what many anti-illegal immigration groups and their supporters call “amnesty.”
Among the findings of the report are that meatpacking workers work in difficult and dangerous conditions; workers have seen a 45 percent decline in their wages and standard of living since 1980; the meatpacking plants returned to full capacity within five months of the raid; and at the four facilities about which researchers were able to obtain information, wages and bonuses rose on average eight percent after the raid.
While CIS claims this supports the efficacy of workplace raids, Walter Ewing, senior researcher at the Immigration Policy Center, notes that the same data could just as easily be used to support a program for legalization of undocumented workers. It would also suggest the need for raising wages at the meatpacking plants – something that United Food and Commercial Workers was already trying to do before the plants were raided.
The CIS report has infuriated immigration advocacy organizations, who argue, as Ewing does in his post on Immigration Impact, that widespread workplace raids “would cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, while wreaking havoc on the economy and tearing apart countless families and communities in the process.” Ewing cites a study from the Center for American Progress that estimates it would cost more than $200 billion over five years to apprehend, detain, and remove the approximately 10 million undocumented immigrants in the country. “This estimate does not include the economic costs which would be incurred by employers whose workforces are suddenly depleted and businesses whose customers suddenly disappear,” Ewing adds, “nor does it include the extraordinary human costs entailed in breaking up families that include more than three million native-born, U.S.-citizen children who have at least one undocumented parent.”
Still, the CIS report does suggest what many people suspect: companies’ reliance on illegal immigrants to fill their workforces drives down wages and working conditions, since undocumented workers are the least likely to protest.
All in all, the most efficient solution, then, would seem to be a plan to provide many of the currently undocumented immigrants living and working in the country a path to legalization.