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The American corporations stoking illegal immigration They have intimate links with the refugee lobby

(GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

(GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)


April 10, 2024   4 mins

When the meatpacking giant, Tyson Foods, announced plans last month to shutter its pork plant in Perry, Iowa and lay-off all 1,200 employees, it brought rare attention to one of the most influential, less scrutinised, dynamics of America’s mass migration debate. That is, the role played by large, politically connected corporations seeking to blunt wage growth.

For this isn’t a time of crisis for Tyson. The same day the company made the announcement, Bloomberg News quoted Garrett Dolan, an executive, as saying that the firm had been actively recruiting from the waves of migrants who have ended up in cities such as New York seeking asylum. Tyson Foods, which already employs some 42,000 immigrants, said it had placed some of the migrants to work at its plants in Tennessee. “We would like to employ another 42,000 if we could find them,” Dolan said. The dual headlines caused a storm on social media, with many calling for a boycott over claims that the company was replacing Americans with immigrants who will work for less. Ohio Senator J.D. Vance described the company’s actions as the “decimation of the American Dream”.

Tyson Foods is far from alone in acting in this way. Many corporations have called for increased immigration as a solution for rapidly rising wages. And several business groups are also pressing policymakers to support programmes to extend legal protections to those who entered the country without documentation. “Any pro-immigration policies that would be implemented will benefit us on increasing the availability of labour throughout the country,” said Andrew Masterman, the former head of Brightview, the nation’s largest commercial landscaping company, when pressed by investors two years ago on how he would respond to upward “wage inflation”.

“And that’s whether that’s… immigrant labour that exists in the country or whether it’s guest immigrant labor coming in,” he added, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We’re fans of that.” In 2022, Scott Salmirs, the president of ABM Industries, a nationwide building maintenance and janitorial firm, raised similar concerns on an earnings call. “The labour pressures we are currently experiencing are largely unprecedented,” said Salmirs. He cited reduced immigration, historically low unemployment and sudden demand from an economy in rebound for raising wages.

It’s a direct result of the pandemic. The closure of the border and reduction in foreign-worker visas has led to a tight labour market and the most rapid wage increases seen in a generation, particularly among the low-paid. The current numbers at the border, therefore, while a political nightmare, pose an economic opportunity to business interests. And corporate interests have not sat idly by — they have started marshalling their resources to lobby Washington for change, especially on immigration policy.

The Business Roundtable (BRT) and the US Chamber of Commerce, the influential lobby groups that helped mobilise support for the 2017 Trump corporate tax cuts, have turned to immigration reform to confront labour market dynamics. In meetings with Congress, the BRT has promoted its agenda of increased agricultural worker visas and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programmes, the latter of which grant certain asylum-seeking migrants the legal right to work in the United States. The Chamber, meanwhile, backs the legislation known as H.R.16, which gives long-term recipients of TPS the ability to obtain permanent resident status.

The BRT represents the chief executives of the largest businesses in America. And its board includes many firms reliant on low-wage labour, including McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Walmart, and Yum! Brands. Donnie King, the CEO of Tyson Foods, is also a member. Meanwhile, Suzanne Clark, the president of the Chamber, has cited “wage growth” as a top concern for her business members, and has previously called for a doubling of the rate of legal immigration. Business lobbyists were quick to hail President Biden’s decision last year to extend TPS protections for over 470,000 Venezuelan migrants, and the administration has since announced an extension for programmes granted to nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, and Nicaragua.

Business groups with a financial stake in immigration policy are also deeply entwined with the pro-immigration activist base. The National Immigration Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are prominent examples of this relationship. And Tyson Foods was among the sponsors of LULAC’s February legislative conference, which focused in part on the need to pass greater immigration protections to migrants. The event featured recorded messages from several Democratic lawmakers and a speech from Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra.

The National Immigration Forum, which has organised coalition efforts to expand TPS programmes and other immigration reforms, similarly received financial support last year from Amazon, Tyson Foods, Walmart, the BRT, the Chamber, and Marek, a construction firm. Tyson Foods’s in-house lobbyist, Nora Venegas, is also active in several immigration reform groups. “Tyson Food supports bipartisan immigration policy solutions,” said Vega, at a press conference with other immigration reform leaders in 2021. “Whether our team members came as refugees or Temporary Protected Status, TPS, holders, we support policy solutions to provide them stability,” she added. Meanwhile, Tent Partnership for Refugees, a new group connecting migrants with employers, has formed alliances with dozens of employers around the country, including Brightview, Amazon, and Walmart. Tyson Foods, in a Tent press release, announced it would hire 2,500 refugees.

The Tyson Foods scandal eventually blew out: the company said its executive misspoke and denied any wrongdoing, while parts of the press downplayed the issue. “It’s not really news that Tyson hires many immigrant workers,” scoffed the Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler. Salon claimed those voicing concerns about corporations replacing Americans with foreign workers were “spinning a narrative” akin to a racist conspiracy.

“The company is far from a bystander in the process.”

Tyson Foods also moved to counter its critics. The company released a statement to Fox News clearing up “misinformation” about its hiring practices: “Any insinuation that we would cut American jobs to hire immigrant workers is completely false.” But while it is true that the company’s reported recruitment efforts are centred on those with legal authorisation to work, such as TPS holders, many did not enter the country legally. And many of the refugees who entered the country without documentation later gained legal status through the focused activism of business-funded immigration advocacy groups and business lobbying from interests such as Tyson Foods. The company is far from a bystander in the process.

And these vested interests are just one part of what constitutes a persistent oversight in discussion of mass migration: the role of the business lobby in shaping both migration law and the policies that some argue continue to attract those making the journey illegally. As is so often the case, the net result is the relegation of the lowest rungs of America’s working class to an afterthought, crushed beneath the imperatives of America’s biggest corporations.


Lee Fang is an investigative journalist and Contributing Editor at UnHerd. Read his Substack here.

lhfang

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Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 month ago

Hint hint, if you want to know why preachy neocons somehow always seem to be sabotaging their voters when it comes to illegal immigration, this is why.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago

It’s all about driving down wages through mass immigration.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Washington Post reporter defends Tyson Foods. The regime media doesn’t even pretend to fight for the little guy anymore. Tyson Foods is an abhorrent blight on capitalism. Screws workers and farmers. It makes a good case for communism.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s amazing how the loudest proponents of the free market seem perfectly happy to see it manipulated the minute the pendulum nudges back towards the workers

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s not a “free market” when the government and corporations are aligned, Billy.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

That’s my point. Whenever power has moved back towards the workers the government has always intervened such as by passing laws to break the unions, ramping up immigration to create more competition for jobs etc. Whenever it’s the workers asking for help the response is always the same, there’s nothing we can do, it’s just the supply and demand of the market and you’ll have to wear it

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago

Firms take big profits, native workers don’t get pay rises, the young are priced out of the housing market due to excessive demand and the poor old tax-payer picks up the tab to subsidise the housing, healthcare, education and subsistence wages of the low paid immigrant. Talk about the top 0.1% skimming off the cream. And yet the (so called) left of centre parties welcome it in the name of “diversity”.
What a scam!

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 month ago

Patriotism comes above capitalism. The merchants need to be brought back into line.

B Emery
B Emery
1 month ago

So just in defence of capitalism, proper capitalism, that we do not have at the moment but should, in my humble opinion, be doing more about saving – free immigration/ open borders, in my opinion, does not have to be considered as part of free trade capitalism.

So you can actually have your patriotism and free trade capitalism in theory.

Unfortunately, the theory that is prevelant at the moment is that free trade and free immigration have to go hand in hand.
Here is a good argument, made much better than I can, for free trade and restricted immigration, rather than free trade and free immigration:

An extract:

Journal of Libertarian Studies 13, Number 2 (1998)
It is frequently maintained that “free trade” belongs to “free immigration” as “protectionism” does to “restricted immigration.” That is, the claim is made that while it is not impossible that someone might combine protectionism with free immigration, or free trade with restricted immigration, these positions are intellectually inconsistent, and thus erroneous. Hence, insofar as people seek to avoid errors, they should be the exception rather than the rule. The facts, to the extent that they have a bearing on the issue, appear to be consistent with this claim. As the 1996 Republican presidential primaries indicated, for instance, most professed free traders are advocates of relatively (even if not totally) free and non-discriminatory immigration policies, while most protectionists are proponents of highly restrictive and selective immigration policies.

Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I will argue that this thesis and its implicit claim are fundamentally mistaken. In particular, I will demonstrate that free trade and restricted immigration are not only perfectly consistent but even mutually reinforcing policies. That is, it is not the advocates of free trade and restricted immigration who are wrong, but rather the proponents of free trade and free immigration. In thus taking the “intellectual guilt” out of the free-trade-and-restricted-immigration position and putting it where it actually belongs, I hope to promote a change in the present state of public opinion and facilitate substantial political realignment.

Trade and Immigration
Given the case for free trade, we will now develop the case for immigration restrictions to be combined with free-trade policies. More specifically, we will build a successively stronger case for immigration restrictions: from the initial weak claim that free trade and immigration restrictions can be combined and do not exclude each other to the final strong claim that the principle underlying free trade actually requires such restrictions.

Full article here: https://mises.org/journal-libertarian-studies/case-free-trade-and-restricted-immigration

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
1 month ago

And exactly the same thing is happening in the U.K. . Whenever, even a mainstream politician raises concerns over immigration, someone from the business lobby pops up and complains about the economic costs ie they might have to pay more than minimum wages.

Some may recall that open migration was one of the ‘tricks’ that Bill Clinton passed-on to Blair and Brown and which led to Labour’s ‘open borders’ policy: keep business sweet. UK business is now addicted to cheap foreign labour because the downside consequences: lack of social cohesion, pressure on housing, health and education services, are not felt by them

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

The corporations can influence, but it is the politicians who decide. Don’t get bogged down in attempts to deflect this from the people who engineered it – this unholy alliance of elected and appointed officials, NGOs, and others within the DC cartel. Business is part of that group but not the only part.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

What an excellent review of the “unofficial” policy that drives so much of the U.S. economy, but cannot be named, at least in the U.S. media. A whole other essay can and should be written on how unrestricted immigration conspires to keep Black Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder — but no worries, we’ll address that with our virtue signaling on “purpose,” “social justice” and “equity.”

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
1 month ago

“Salon claimed those voicing concerns about corporations replacing Americans with foreign workers were “spinning a narrative” akin to a racist conspiracy.” So drearily predictable a response.

mike otter
mike otter
1 month ago

Corporatism is not a free-market ideology, its roots are in Italian and Spanish fascism. It is a commnad economy system and as such a (non idenitical) triplet with communism and socialism both national and internationalist.

Mechan Barclay
Mechan Barclay
1 month ago

I get the cutthroat attitude of the American business tycoons. I get that there is a conversation about domestic wages for citizens. But when you’re undercutting the very communities that enacted laws for prosperity, its very hard not to see them as harbingers of doom. The importance of voting in voices against this is such a priority everywhere, otherwise this just continues to bleed everyone dry of savings.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

What a load of . . . . The slaughterhouses/packing plants hire illegal immigrants and everyone knows it. Illegals are desperate and will work for under minimum wage. Slaughterhouse work is dangerous, but injuries aren’t reported. Just recently, it was discovered that children were working 12 hour shifts at these businesses. The story got out because a 12-year-old boy was killed. And apparently, he was not the first. Illegal immigrants stay quiet, which exactly what the businesses want.

Anna
Anna
1 month ago

The slaughterhouse/meat packing industry is the worst offender, after that fruit/greens picking. No American would do this work for the wages they pay. Fraudulent IDs, look the other way. It’s a scandal, but persists because we demand cheap food.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
1 month ago

While some of the staunchest proponents of “Defund the Police” are quietly employing and even funding professional private security contracting firms. I am shocked!

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago

Infuriating. Neither party represents their people.