Where do we draw the line on workers’ status?

One of the Mississippi chicken processing plants caught up in last week’s immigration raid now plans to host a job fair Monday.

The company, Illinois-based Koch (pronounced Cook) Foods, tells the Associated Press it will be recruiting new workers for its Morton plant at a nearby state job center.

My question is simple: why didn’t they do that in the first place — before apparently hiring hundreds of workers who either were in the United States illegally or who weren’t allowed to work in this country?

Now, just two days after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided the plant to arrest about 243 workers Wednesday, the company says it will host a job fair. Wednesday’s raid in Morton, Miss., was one in a series of raids at seven plants in different Mississippi towns that netted arrests of about 680 workers, mostly Latino.

Federal officials allege Koch was one of four companies “willfully and unlawfully” employing people who lack authorization to work in the U.S.

Koch, based near Chicago, said it relies on the E-Verify program to check new hires for immigration status. Koch says it’s cooperating with the investigation and is “diligent” in complying with employment laws, the Associated Press is reporting.

Now, I suspect work in a chicken processing plant wouldn’t be the career of choice for many. It’s hard work in what I suspect are less-than-ideal conditions.

The Associated Press has reported that the plant’s tough processing jobs mainly have been filled by Latino immigrants eager to take whatever work they can get.

This leads to some arguments that these folks are filling a much-needed void.

The plants, in fact, do make up a big part of the economies of small towns in that part of Mississippi. Certainly, no one wants to see these plants — which were relying on immigrant workers — fail. And now it will be interesting to see how successful Koch is in its efforts to find new workers — ones who are authorized to work in the U.S.

Many also will argue that these workers were here simply trying to make a better life than they could have had south of the border.

Sad stories that emerged after Wednesday’s raid depicted tearful children waving goodbye to their parents who were being transported away after they could not prove they were in the U.S. legally.

But it must be noted that some were here legally. Those folks were permitted to leave the plant.

Absolutely, this whole situation is gut-wrenching. But where do we draw the line?

It appears three Democratic congressmen don’t believe Morton, Miss., is the right place to do it.

Friday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland and House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chairman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, questioned the Morton raids, demanding that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice produce related documents. They want Attorney General Bill Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to detail the cost of raids that initially detained 680 people and whether employers face criminal charges. They also want to know whether any U.S. citizens were detained, how many parents were separated from children and whether any still remain separated, the AP reports.

Federal officials, however, are saying evidence shows that some people working in each of the seven raided plants had been arrested previously for immigration violations and weren’t allowed to work in the U.S.

Federal court documents also allege six of the plants were “willfully and unlawfully” employing people who lacked authorization to work in the United States.

Knowing that, why isn’t this the right place to draw the line?

Yes, some of these workers were in this country legally. Absolutely, some were authorized to work in the U.S.

But shouldn’t they all be?


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