Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Immigration Reform: Reconciling the Views of Business and Labor

By Research Fellow Robert Valencia

In May 2008, a massive immigration raid took place on the Postville, Iowa-based kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors, Inc. The result of the raid was the apprehension of nearly 400 people, most of whom originally hailed from a small town in Guatemala called San José Calderas.1 One of the largest such roundups in the history of U.S. immigration enforcement, the Postville raid led to the shutdown of the facility and the imprisonment of some of the plant’s senior management, constituting a large economic blow to the entire community. Two years later, the repercussions from the raid are still visible in the Iowa community. Postville Mayor Leigh Rekow acknowledged that the city “is still dealing with some of the negative issues in the past.”2 In April 2010, Postville’s infamous slaughterhouse took on a new persona; reopening under Canadian ownership, the rebranded “Agri Star” plant now employs 560 people.

Such incidents have raised questions concerning the impact of immigration on the U.S. economy and how the issue is treated by business and labor across the economic spectrum. For instance, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a right-wing think tank, cited a 2010 Zogby poll of senior executives, business owners, and members of union households who believe that the best way to handle illegal immigration is by way of law enforcement that ultimately aims to repatriate undocumented immigrants. The poll surveyed 7,046 members of union households, 2,490 executives—including CEOs, CFOs, vice presidents and department heads—as well as 9,990 small business owners. The majority of those surveyed in the Zogby poll oppose the stand taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which, according to its official statement, endorses not increased law enforcement, but rather immigration reform that “is comprehensive, addressing both future economic needs for workers and the status of undocumented workers already in the United States.”

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