The anti-immigration sentiment that’s growing in the U.S. is fomenting not only inhumane actions but also a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars. In an opinion piece in the Miami Herald, author Mary Sanchez describes a government raid on an Iowa meatpacking plant in which almost 400 Mayan Guatemalans “were scooped up and shuffled in shackles to a fairground designed to hold cattle” before being jailed for 5 months (at taxpayer expense) pending deportation to Guatemala.
The online comments left by two readers of the opinion piece applauded the action, citing identity theft by illegal immigrants and lack of jobs for U.S. citizens. It’s understandable that citizens facing economic hardship and/or identity theft would be angry, but there’s a reason why agribusiness relies on illegal immigrants, whether for harvesting in fields or working in slaughterhouses. Few U.S. citizens want these jobs, especially jobs in meatpacking (slaughterhouses) which reportedly have the highest injury rates of any profession in the U.S. Agribusinesses hire illegal immigrants to keep the meat rolling off the assembly line at prices they can profit from, and if we in the U.S. decide to stop illegal immigration, it’s the employers we should punish for breaking the law, not desperate people fleeing relentless poverty.
As always, left out of articles and opinion pieces such as these are animals and the environment. Large scale slaughterhouse work, with its sped up lines and dangerous working conditions, is brutal and inhumane for humans, but it is a travesty of relentless cruelty toward animals, with millions of fully conscious mammals and birds dying terrifying, slow, and excruciating deaths. And the destructive effects of animal agribusiness on water, air, soil, and climate is egregious.
We could solve a host of problems, massively diminish the inhumane treatment of both people and animals, and save a massive amount of taxpayer money if we changed our system of agriculture to protect people, animals, the environment, and the safety and health of our food.