The big news this week were the raids by the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division on six of Swift's meat packing plants. See "Federal Sweep Of Illegal Workers Hits Six Swift Plants" in this issue of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly.
Not surprisingly, the reaction in the market place was swift (no pun intended), with concerns that production schedules would be seriously interrupted and raids were forthcoming in Tyson and Excel plants, as well. Later in the week, all Swift plants had resumed operations but at reduced production levels. Estimates are the raids could cost Swift upwards of $100 million, and ultimately lead to new ownership of Swift.
The raids have been billed as the largest workplace site enforcement action ever taken. They will undoubtedly raise the level of this debate significantly within the industry and nationwide.
The bottom line is ag has historically employed a relatively large number of immigrant workers. While no one advocates hiring illegal immigrants, our immigration system failed to provide enough documented workers to such a degree that a cottage industry has emerged to provide workers with documentation.
-- Troy Marshall