Less than a week after the mass shooting in El Paso, ICE conducted one of it’s largest raids in history, arresting 680 workers at seven chicken processing plants in Mississippi.
The timing of the raid, the size and scope of the raid, and the fact that agents arrested no employers were questions that surfaced in the aftermath. In addition, the day of the raid, dozens of children returned home and found their parents gone.
This confluence of events — the murders, the massive raid, the stark division of immigrant workers arrested while management and owners remain unaffected and again, the suffering of separated children and parents — have provided another “what’s wrong in America?” moment.
When the issue is immigration and yet another set of crises and questions have arisen, all roads lead to President Trump, and point to his own employees and policies as a root of the present immigration disaster.
Most recently, the Washington Post reported about undocumented workers on construction crews at Trump Properties. According to the Post, Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons and a Trump Organization executive, said the company was making a “broad effort” to identify and fire undocumented laborers.
However, one worker told the Post he was even instructed by a supervisor to buy fake documents on a street corner in New York City.
Why would any Employer, especially one as high profile as Trump, hire the very same workers Trump has targeted as criminal and unworthy?
Employing workers without legal status gives the company a competitive advantage, industry officials told the Post. And undocumented laborers are less likely to risk job changes and are less likely to complain if they’re being mistreated.
Trump “doesn’t want undocumented people in the country,” one former Trump Organization worker, Jorge Castro, told the Post. “But at his properties, he still has them.”
Trump’s businesses rely heavily on documented foreign laborers as well. As Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell reported. She found that only one out of 144 jobs available at Trump properties during 2016 and 2017 went to an American worker, and that the Trump administration has expanded access to H-2B visas:
“Employers are supposed to attempt to find American workers before hiring H-2B immigrants, Fernández Campbell reported, but documents showed Trump Organization hiring managers made the minimum required effort to recruit US citizens to fill the open positions.”
The H-2B visa program allows seasonal, non-agricultural employers — like hotels and ski resorts — to hire foreign workers when they can’t find American ones. The Trump administration temporarily expanded this guest-worker program in 2017 while restricting other avenues of legal immigration, including the H-1B program for high-skilled workers.
The Trump Organization has said it’s ensuring its workers are documented immigrants. To that end, the company has fired nearly two dozen people due to their immigration status since the New York Times reported on undocumented workers at the Trump Organization’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey last December, and has adopted a system for verifying employment eligibility.
But firing undocumented workers — and instituting widespread policies intended to flush them out of the US labor market — may have the unintended consequence of placing stress on an economy desperately in need of low-skill workers.
“As president, Trump has pushed an immigration plan that favors migrants prepared for high-skill jobs, that gives advantages to immigrants with advanced college degrees. But those jobs are, for the most part, already filled. There are a surplus of jobs available for low-skilled workers, however, and not enough Americans to fill them.
Immigrants who want to take those open jobs have two options, Fernández Campbell writes: The H-2A program for farm workers and the H-2B program for seasonal workers, such as those working at Trump hotels. There are only around 75,000 visas available annually for those guest workers, and they don’t cover jobs like those at the plant raided last week in Mississippi.”
Trump’s policies may make the labor shortage worse, industry experts say, including at his own properties. If he hopes to keep the economy growing, it will require rethinking restrictive policies that have been the cornerstone of his platform.