Refugee Resettlement Watch

Meatpackers changing small town America (and you have no say in the process)

Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 5, 2013

The importation of refugee labor is how it is being done.

Here is one more story about Tyson Foods (or it could be Swift & Co, or perhaps Perdue) attracting refugee laborers to a meatpacking town—this time Columbus Junction, Iowa. Hat tip to one of our friends from Tennessee.

Downtown Columbus Junction

I first really began to understand this driver of the State Department’s Refugee Resettlement program here in 2008 when I read about Bill Clinton importing Bosnian so-called “refugees” for meatpackers in Iowa in the mid-1990s.

You see, readers, the meatpackers had discovered cheap immigrant labor from south of the border, but the enterprise became too risky as the feds began busting them in some highly publicized ICE raids. So, where did they turn…to refugees of course. 

Heck they are legal workers and they are basically captive labor—they can’t go home (although some very unhappy ones do find the money to return to their homeland).  In addition, you, the taxpayers, help to subsidize them with ‘social services’ while the meatpacker reaps the rewards—quite a business model!

For awhile the meatpacking giants were enthralled with the Somalis, but they came with one serious problem—they are Muslim and they began demanding workplace accommodation for their Islamic religious practices.  We have a whole category entitled, Greeley/Swift/Somali controversy with 87 posts in it (here) for your further edification.  However, in the story I am about to relate, they wouldn’t have hired Somalis anyway—it’s a pork processing plant.

What to do?  What to do?  We will tell the State Department to bring us some docile workers like the Christian Chin or Karen, or the Bhutanese/Nepalese who don’t complain so much.  And, I’m convinced that somewhere in the bowels of Washington there was such a conversation between big business lobbyists and the federal government.

My scenario is not so farfetched when you see what is going on with the Gang of Eight being driven by Big Business and Grover Norquist,  and you know this immigrant legalization push is not about “humanitarianism!”

Here is the AP story at the Tampa Tribune:

 COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa (AP) — The first Chin Burmese student arrived at Wilma Sime Roundy Elementary School three years ago, a smiling preschooler whose father often checked on his progress.

The school had long been accustomed to educating the children of the Mexicans, Hondurans and Salvadorans who came to work at the sprawling Tyson Foods pork processing plant that sits outside this town of 2,000. But then, principal Shane Rosenberg recalled, Tyson informed school leaders that a new group of workers was coming – the Chin, a largely Christian ethnic minority who were fleeing their homeland in western Myanmar to avoid persecution.

Readers keep reading through all the paragraphs about how wonderful the newcomers are (and surely many are nice people).  Everything is just great don’t ya’ know!  Then we get to the problems …

Tyson spokesman:  Nah! We don’t favor refugees (tell that to the Hispanics!)

Tyson and other meatpacking companies have increasingly recruited non-Latino workers in recent years, including Burmese, Sudanese and others, said Mark Grey, director of the Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration at University of Northern Iowa. Since a 2008 raid of a Postville, Iowa, slaughterhouse, where 389 immigrants were arrested, companies have become more careful to avoid hiring employees who may have entered the country illegally, he said.

Refugees are in the country legally and may apply for citizenship within five years.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson denied the company was favoring refugees over others, saying the industry has long attracted immigrants for entry-level jobs that do not require experience or English skills. The makeup of its workforce shifts as new immigrant groups come to the U.S., he said.  [There is also a tax break for hiring certain immigrant workers that no one is willing to talk about!---ed]

A little multi-culti friction has developed:

But in town, both the Chin and Spanish-speaking communities feel that more Chin are being hired at the expense of Latinos, which has caused some friction, said Cristina Ortiz, a doctoral student in anthropology who moved to Columbus Junction four years ago to study the town.

“Latinos and Chin people recognize they both have the same goals in life,” she says. “That is to make their lives better and provide for their families and live a tranquil life. But in a certain sense, they are in competition with each other. They are applying for the same jobs. They have the same skills. And that’s tricky. Obviously there is some tension there.”

Burmese Chin are arriving from other states where it’s tough to get a job (But wait!  Isn’t the Gang of Eight telling us we need millions more low-skilled laborers).

In Columbus Junction, Mickelson said, the first five Burmese workers were hired as part of a recruitment effort in Illinois and later encouraged friends and relatives to apply. Burmese started arriving from Indiana, Texas, Florida and other states where they say jobs were harder to come by.

Problems at first with drunk driving, public urination, a few suicides, but once the women got there things calmed down.  Now it’s just a housing shortage.  But, AP wants you to know that Columbus Junction will be just fine.

City officials say some of the first arrivals abused alcohol, which had previously not been as cheap or available to them. Public urination and intoxication and drunken driving were common. But the police chief and other officials warned community leaders about their expectations, and as more women and children arrived, the problems have dissipated.

Two refugees have committed suicide and a third was found drowned in a river near the Tyson plant, said police Chief Donnie Orr. A shortage of mental health and substance abuse treatment is a problem, Ortiz said.

But refugees and city leaders agree the biggest challenge now is finding housing for the newcomers. City officials say there are hardly any available rental apartments, which go for about $450 a month for three bedrooms.

Hey, here is an idea!  How about if Tyson Foods build some housing out of their profits and not with taxpayer money.  And. while they are at it they could kick in the money for the school system to pay for the ESL teachers.

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4 Responses to “Meatpackers changing small town America (and you have no say in the process)”

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