The Illegal Immigrant: A Fundamental Necessity
Up until a few months ago, I never considered the people and effort that went into the food I was consuming. Other than thanking the grocery store cashier when I checked out, I had no connection to the people involved in the process of my food production. I began to wonder, who exactly are the people who spend hours on end out in fields picking the strawberries I just ate? Who processed the meat I had in my cheeseburger yesterday? I began to do research and came to discover that the majority of our food industry is functioning off of the hard work of undocumented immigrants. In particular, I chose to research more thoroughly the meatpacking industry and the oppressed undocumented workers behind the booming success of companies like Tyson and Perdue.
Because undocumented immigrants often go unseen, we are not aware of the valuable impact they have on our lives. Undocumented immigrants make up almost half of workers in the agricultural industry, and hundreds of thousands more work in meatpacking (Gaston & Harrison, 2012). They are typically underpaid and forced to work in dangerous conditions (Schwartz, 2017. Gaston & Harrison, 2012). Without labor unions to protect them from ruthless employers, meatpacking workers regularly suffer injuries that are not covered by insurance and have little power to advocate for higher pay (Hedges, S. J., 1996). Currently, undocumented immigrants are under extreme threat due to the Trump administration’s proposed deportation policies. Of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 3 million are under direct threat of deportation from President Trump and nearly all live in constant fear of it (Schwartz, 2017). The Trump administration’s efforts to deport DACA immigrants and other valuable members of our society would have serious implications. Without hundreds of thousands of workers to harvest produce, pack meat, and milk our cows, our food security as a nation would be severely endangered, not to mention our entire economy.
Instead of continuing to live off the backs of one of the most undervalued groups in our nation, we should be helping undocumented immigrants find a path to citizenship, in addition to advocating for their rights as a way of showing our appreciation for the work they do; the fact is, our lifestyles would not be sustainable—let alone possible—without the thankless jobs they perform. I challenge you to do more than just thank your cashier when you check out at the grocery store. Ask questions. Read the news. Call your congresspersons. It is only through public awareness and support that undocumented workers will begin to receive the rights that they deserve as working members of American society.
Gastón, M.T. & Harrison, W. (2012). Meatpacking workers’ perceptions of working conditions, psychological contracts, and organizational justice. Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies (JOLLAS). 4(3), 57-76.
Hedges, S. J. (1996). The new jungle. U.S. News & World Report, 121(12) 34-45. Retrieved from ERIC.
Schwartz, H. (2017). How trump’s assault on immigrants will damage the economy. Nation, 304(11), 16-18.