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October 2019, Volume 25, Number 4

Regional America: ICE

Some 6,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents inspected workers at seven food processing plants near Canton, Mississippi in August 2019 and arrested 680 unauthorized workers. The plants were owned by Peco Foods, Pearl River Foods, Koch Foods, A & B Inc. and P H Food Inc.

Five percent of the 2,400 workers employed in three Peco Foods poultry processing plants were arrested despite Peco's use of E-Verify to check the work authorization documents of newly hired workers. Unauthorized workers sometimes use the Social Security numbers and IDs of legal workers or of their US-born children, so that E-Verify confirms them as work-authorized.

Affidavits unsealed after the raids said that agents believed the poultry firms "willfully and unlawfully" employed unauthorized workers. Some of the workers in the plants were released with ankle monitors so that they show up for court proceedings.

The Mississippi workplace raids were the largest since December 2006, when over 1,200 workers were arrested at Swift meat processing plants in several states. Managers are rarely prosecuted for hiring unauthorized workers, since the government must prove that they knowingly hired such workers.

The pork-processing industry wants to eliminate federal regulations that limit slaughter to 1,106 hogs an hour. Most of the hogs processed in processing plants are six months old and weigh 250 pounds. Processors say that line speeds can be increased because most hogs are healthy and technology allows for faster work.

Under proposed regulations, there would be fewer federal inspectors at the 40 pork plants that produce 90 percent of US pork because employees would be responsible for spotting and removing diseased carcasses and parts before they reached federal inspectors.

Alaska. Alaska has a population of 740,000, a labor force of 350,000, and the highest unemployment rate among states in summer 2019, 6.5 percent. The state's economy depends on the military for jobs and wages, oil for state tax revenues, and tourism and fishing for seasonal jobs, many of which are filled by out-of-state residents.