The August 7, 2019 detention of 680 illegal alien workers by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the largest single-state worksite enforcement action generated much national media attention. The announcement last week by federal officials of indictments against four managers at two chicken processing companies in central Mississippi for crimes related to hiring illegal alien workers went largely unnoticed.
“The indictments unsealed today mark the beginning, not the end, of our investigations and prosecutions. Rest assured that we will continue to pursue criminal wrongdoers and enforce our criminal laws wherever the evidence may take us,” said Mike Hurst, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
When federal officials executed search warrants at several chicken processing plants throughout Mississippi last year, the response from politicians, special interest activists and the media was, well, akin to chickens running around with their heads cut off.
“This is who Donald Trump is: a president determined to terrorize immigrant communities and rip apart families — at the border and across our country. The question is, who are we? I believe we are a nation that will end these cruel policies and make Trump a one-term president,” said former Vice President Joe Biden on Twitter shortly after the raid.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, plans to make that rhetoric a reality. In a recently-released plan, he pledged to would “end workplace raids” and unionize illegal alien workers by ensuring “that I-9 audits do not undermine workers’ ability to organize and assert their rights.”
Despite Hurst and his team securing indictments of managers in record time, the press reactively returned to the same material they wrote in the aftermath of the enforcement actions. Storylines that appeared last year about the raid’s impact on the illegal immigrants, the “trauma” caused to children and their communities, and the “lasting impact” of government enforcement of existing immigration laws were present in coverage last week.
One local television outlet interviewed Magdalena Gomez, the little girl who gained instant media fame when she pleaded through tears for her father’s release. She remains fearful her father will be deported and says he is “suffering” because “he stays two hours from us,” while he works a job in construction, which he obviously is holding illegally.
There was no effort to follow-up with the hopeful interviewees who attended job fairs that were held in the weeks after the raid. A year later, were they still in these jobs that only illegal workers would hold? Had conditions at the plants improved and were more Americans or legal immigrants?
To toe the activists’ line that the illegal workers are all victims of ICE and the Trump administration is to ignore the reality that the arrests made in the wake of last year’s raid have to date yielded 126 indictments, 117 criminal arrests and 73 convictions. So, why has no enterprising scribe tracked down one of the victims who had their lives turned upside down as a result of the identity theft committed by an illegal alien? Surely, the experience of a teenager trying to enter the U.S. Navy or a young woman with mental health issues who lost her Social Security benefits and medicines as a result of the theft would be of interest to readers.
“These are real world, real people, real lives who are being threatened, who are being harmed, who are being victimized by those who seek to violate our immigration laws,” said Hurst.
U.S. Attorney Hurst has had incredible success in prosecuting companies and individuals for exploiting illegal alien workers. As he noted during a local radio interview, his office also accepted a guilty plea from Rui Ping Lin and his company, Red Samurai Sushi, Inc., of Madison, Mississippi, for harboring illegal aliens last week.
It is important for Americans to be aware of these prosecutions, particularly those that stem from large-scale and widely-covered raids. To ignore these cases certainly exposes the media’s narrow view of worksite issues. But, more importantly, refusing to cover them undermines the trust the public has in law enforcement officials to hold businesses accountable, and it mutes the message being sent to corporations that the hiring illegal workers is a crime to be taken seriously and seriously prosecuted.