On Aug. 7, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrested over 600 undocumented workers in Mississippi. The events surrounding the arrests and companies’ responses point to a greater immigration issue in Mississippi and, ultimately, the United States.
Many news outlets have reported in outrage that the raids separated children from parents. The mayor of Jackson categorized the separating of families as “a gross display of humanity.” However, the ICE raids were a necessary process for the federal government to enforce its laws. Further, the raids showed that the federal government is failing to do its job in protecting our country’s borders.
Both those living here illegally and their employers were found to have violated state and federal laws. The New York Times reported that Peco Foods plant had hired the same worker on two separate occasions who applied with a different name each time. Clearly the new hire was engaging in fraudulent activities but the employer refused to stop it. P H Food Inc. and A & B Inc. also employed workers knowing they were immigrants living in the country illegally.
In Mississippi, employers are required to use E-Verify, a database that verifies employee documentation. But affidavits released for this case show that some of the companies have not been using the system to check employee documents. Human resources employees have neglected to follow state and federal law in conducting their hiring processes.
But the employees are to blame, too. One Guatemalan woman who had been employed by Peco Foods admitted that she bought a fake Tennessee ID card and other documents in order to be hired by the company. A group of employees in Pearl River Foods in Carthage were found to be using stolen IDs and Social Security numbers to gain employment.
These loopholes for companies and individuals do not help the federal government enforce immigration laws. In fact, it keeps immigrants living in the country legally and U.S. citizens from receiving jobs they are qualified to obtain.
While some may argue that the E-Verify system should be further enforced on employers to keep undocumented immigrants from obtaining jobs, the system is unreliable. Only 43% of companies in Mississippi use E-Verify, even when it is required by the state to use the system. And when companies do use it, there is no safeguard to verify stolen identification documents.
The weight of enforcing immigration laws should not lay with the employer, especially when the tools used to enforce immigration laws are ineffective. ICE raids help to reverse illegal immigration. But when 610,000 apprehensions of immigrants entering and living in the country illegally have already occurred at the southern border, the U.S. needs a more secure system to stop illegal immigration before it happens.
Illegal immigration is not a sustainable plan for Mississippi or the United States. It is clear in the case of the August raids that current state laws do not protect this state from illegal immigration. The federal government has mandated laws but done little to enforce them. Mississippians should call on local and state officials to fix the immigration crisis in the state, enforcing current laws and working with employers to keep undocumented immigrants from illegally working.
Lauren Moses is junior accounting and political science major from Dallas, Texas.