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writing for godot

How to Shoot Oneself in the Foot

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Written by Christine Ho   
Thursday, 06 September 2018 07:24

Fear has the mind-bending power to trick us into thinking and acting against our best interests, such as shooting ourselves in the foot. Fear can blind us to the connections between our daily lives and the world monopoly game played by governments and businesses, such as between immigration raids and the foods we crave.

Hot dogs, Big Macs, KFC and pepperoni pizza. Iconic staples of the American diet. They could become history if President Trump and his cheering section get their wish. Why? Because the magicians who turn cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens into meat (butchering) and meat into sausages (meatpacking) and seeds into zucchini and blueberries, are being arrested, detained in immigrant prisons and deported in droves.

A key ingredient in President Trump’s recipe for removing non-white immigrants is immigration raids. The most notorious raid occurred on May 12, 2008, when ICE and other officials descended on a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting 389 people. Most were undocumented from Guatemala and Mexico. Most were deported [https://www.marketplace.org/2017/08/03/economy/postvilles-long-recovery-after-raid].

A decade later, on April 5, 2018, ICE and other officials descended again on a meatpacking plant in Bean Station, Tennessee, and arrested 97 people. Again, most were undocumented workers from Guatemala and Mexico. Most were deported [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/11/us/tennessee-immigration-trump.html]. Then, on June 19, 2018, ICE descended on Fresh Mark, a meatpacking plant in northeast Ohio and arrested 146 workers, most from Guatemala [https://www.npr.org/2018/06/20/621810030/ice-carries-out-its-largest-immigration-raid-in-recent-history-arresting-146].

How are immigration raids connected to hot dogs, KFC and pepperoni? Workplace raids remove hundreds of workers from companies which, in turn, force companies either to raise prices or go out of business. One connection, then, between immigration raids and hot dogs and pepperoni is to wallets. Food prices can soar by five to six percent while livestock production can fall by 13 to 27 percent; fruit by 61 percent and vegetables by 31 percent [http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/08/14/farmers-struggle-labor-food-prices/].

Labor shortages are not the only reason for going out of business, another is customer shortages. Undocumented immigrants are consumers. They buy groceries, clothes, shoes, TVs and cars. When they disappear, small and big businesses alike will close down. People will lose jobs.

A more important connection, perhaps, is to government treasuries. Contrary to popular myth, undocumented immigrants are taxpayers. When Alabama passed its immigration law, HB 56, in 2011, it cost the state $10.8 billion in lost income and tax revenues when 40,000 – 80,000 Latinos fled the state [https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8gk7nx/what-alabamas-failed-anti-immigration-law-can-teach-us-about-donald-trump]. In 2014 alone, Tennessee immigrants paid $1.5 billion in federal taxes and $493.9 million in state and local taxes. [http://immigrationimpact.com/2018/04/12/worksite-raid-tennessee-immigration-enforcement/].

Soaring food prices would not be limited to meat and seafood. When Georgia passed immigration law, HB 87, in 2011, farmworkers disappeared, leaving crops to rot in the fields and an estimated $140 million in agricultural losses [https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/05/17/the-law-of-unintended-consequences-georgias-immigration-law-backfires/#5da4ad67492a]. In August 2018, immigration raids in Nebraska targeted a tomato greenhouse, among other businesses, and arrested 133 workers. The tomato greenhouse which processed 250,000 pounds of tomatoes each week lost 2/3 of its workers [http://immigrationimpact.com/2018/08/13/immigration-raid-nebraska-agriculture-industry/].

Why don’t Americans replace the meatpackers and farmworkers? Farm and business owners complain that Americans are unwilling to do such strenuous labor. That Americans may not want to spend 12 hours a day, bent in half, planting zucchini or gutting chickens is no surprise. But, in contrast to Central Americans and Mexicans who perform back-breaking labor for next to nothing because they have no choice, Americans would demand a living wage.

The construction, hospitality and health care industries have also been targets of immigration raids, although punishment appears restricted to workers because companies have not been charged. Furthermore, raids are not limited to work places. They routinely happen in homes, schools, churches, even hospitals and courtrooms.

Apart from damage to wallets and treasuries, let us not forget the human cost of immigration raids, which render children parent-less. Hundreds of children missed school the day after the Tennessee raid, after returning to a home with no mommy or daddy or both, and realizing they were on their own. One 16-year-old boy said, ”my mother is the only person I have. I live alone now.” [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/11/us/tennessee-immigration-trump.html].

Fear can trump common sense. Instead of thanking the magicians who put food on our tables and appreciating their labor, why do we revile them and wish they would disappear? If our wish was granted and 11+ million undocumented were deported, it could cost an estimated $400 billion. This could bring the American economy to its knees or even economic collapse. Can you imagine a more perfect example of shooting oneself in the foot?

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0 # Idiolect 2018-09-12 14:58
Thanks for this very sensible article.
Don't forget to add that migrants send money home and those funds are spent on exports from the US. When people earn they spend; it is always a win in a consumerist world.
 

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