33 Lab. Stud. J. 5 (2008)

handle is hein.journals/labstuj33 and id is 1 raw text is: 



Introduction                                                     ar   tdeJonl
                                                                     Marich 2008 5-8

Immigration and Labor:                                       10.1
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                                                                          hosted at
A  Special UALE Conference Issue                               http:i.igepub.com


Immigration   has always been a key issue for the labor movement, but in the last
  few  years, the topic seems to have increasing importance. This is partly because
the harsh impacts of free trade, structural adjustment and war have increased eco-
nomic hardship for millions of workers around the world. Migration is at an all-time
high, with about three percent of the world's population crossing international borders
and far more moving within countries to look for work (Population Division 2007).
   In the U.S., it has been more than 20 years since the Immigration Reform and
Control Act was passed. As job insecurity rises, and the economy faces a looming
recession, certain groups are calling on Congress to pass new immigration reform.
Most of this has come in a reactionary form, looking to seal the borders and punish
all workers in the country without proper documentation. Although the majority of
Americans  support fair immigration law, harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric dominates
the media and Congress.
   In response to some of this proposed legislation, the spring of 2006 was marked
by a series of large demonstrations throughout the country, peaking with the May
Day  walkout/economic boycott, which was most likely the largest worker demon-
stration, in absolute numbers (up to five million people), in U.S. history.
   But May  Day was only the latest, most visible culmination of decades of immi-
grant rights activism. Immigrant workers had also been organizing and resisting in
workplaces and communities  for years before 2006. This included everything from
organizing against anti-immigrant ballot initiatives in California to forming unions
and taking workplace actions.
   As immigrant workers stepped up their organizing activities, the U.S. government
responded with workplace raids conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's
office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although the number of raids
and criminal and administrative arrests had already been growing since 2003, there
was a huge spike in activity from 2005 to 2006, and another jump in 2007 (Immigration
and Customs  Enforcement 2007).
   We write this just before the one-year anniversary of the raids that took place at
six Swift meatpacking plants across the country. In December 2006, hundreds of
ICE agents entered the plants and arrested almost 1,300 workers. Some were immedi-
ately deported; some were taken to another state and jailed; some are still separated
from their children today. Raids like this continue, leaving families and communities
torn apart. According to Chris Kutalik and William Johnson of Labor Notes magazine,
raids in meatpacking, such as at Swift and Smithfield, have coincided with union
activity (Kutalik 2007; Johnson 2007).


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