Blog & Updates
CIS report shows why we need Immigration Reform (unintentionally, of course)
March 23, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
After issuing numerous less-than-credible research reports that blame immigrants for global warming and the financial crisis, the Center for Immigration Studies —the anti-immigration advocacy organization founded as the research arm of FAIR,— issued a report focusing on the impact that the 2006 worksite raids on Swift & Co. meatpacking plants had on the labor conditions of the plant’s workers. Strangely enough, the findings of the report highlight the benefits of a legalized workforce: better wages and better working conditions for workers, the same argument used by pro-immigrant organizations as they advocate for legalization for 12 million or so undocumented immigrants. The Washington Independent reports on the irony,
Although CIS advocates the crackdown on illegal aliens through raids such as these, the report actually makes a persuasive case for the legalization of many currently undocumented immigrants –- what many anti-illegal immigration groups and their supporters call “amnesty.”
Among the findings of the report are that meatpacking workers work in difficult and dangerous conditions; workers have seen a 45 percent decline in their wages and standard of living since 1980; the meatpacking plants returned to full capacity within five months of the raid; and at the four facilities about which researchers were able to obtain information, wages and bonuses rose on average eight percent after the raid.
While CIS claims this supports the efficacy of workplace raids, Walter Ewing, senior researcher at the Immigration Policy Center, notes that the same data could just as easily be used to support a program for legalization of undocumented workers. It would also suggest the need for raising wages at the meatpacking plants – something that United Food and Commercial Workers was already trying to do before the plants were raided.
The CIS report argues that the rise in wages was a direct result of the workplace raids but they forgot one minor detail: the union was already working on the wage increases before the raid. Here’s what UFCW — the union representing Swift’s workers — had to say about this report, as published on Immigration Impact, the blog of the Immigration policy Center,
A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies is a perfect illustration of the misinterpretation and manipulation of data to reach a totally biased and flawed conclusion-and clearly demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the history of the meatpacking industry.
[T]he UFCW has been fighting to rebuild wages and standards for these [meatpacking plant] jobs...At Swift, the UFCW had negotiated those wage increases before the raid even took place. So there goes CIS’s central argument, collapsed like a flimsy house of cards.
CIS also fails to address the devastating impact that the Swift raid had on thousands of workers -immigrant and native born. After the raids, the UFCW documented numerous examples of racial profiling, U.S. citizens harassed and detained by armed agents and a total disregard for workers’ constitutional rights.
—New CIS Study: Easy Answers and Half-Baked Solutions, March 19, 2009
Instead of falling for FAIR/CIS’s deportation-only strategy, pitting workers against each other, we should be looking for solutions that move the country forward, together. As long as there is an underground economy that benefits from exploitable workers, the rights of all workers will be destabilized. Legalizing immigrant workers will even the playing field, strengthen the bargaining power of hard-working employees, and will improve labor conditions and wages for all workers, native and immigrant workers alike. This is yet another reason why we need immigration reform now.