For those who missed it, there was a heartbreaking federal immigration raid in Iowa last week. Over 300 workers were arrested at a meat processing plant and, in a rushed, four-day process, 270 plead guilty and were sentenced to five months in prison followed by immediate deportation. They signed away their rights to appear in immigration court, and families were abruptly split. Many of the workers had used false IDs and social security numbers to secure employment at the plant, owned by Agriprocessors, the nation's largest produce of Kosher meats. Underage workers were also employed there. Remaining workers told the New York Times that managers were well aware of the many legal violations taking place. But it's the workers themselves who'll pay the price of dislocation, with all the economic and emotional trauma that entails.
Today, the Times follows up with a fascinating story about how increased fear of immigration raids is changing the agricultural industry. Some farmers in Western New York have sharply scaled back their output and switched to crops that they can harvest using machines, rather than increase wages to a level where native-born workers will take these jobs.Those technological changes are costly and thus will be difficult to reverse, even if a temporary guest worker program is created and the supply of farm workers comes back up.