Saturday, August 30, 2008
I saw the headline over my morning coffee: ‘Immigration Raid Rocks Small Town.´ The story that followed described in detail the supposed chaos, fear and heartbreak caused by Immigration and Customs Enforcement´s raid on a Howard Industries plant in Mississippi.
The raid was apparently the largest ever undertaken at a single workplace and it netted nearly 600 people who have no legal right to be in the nation, let alone working here.
While the story highlighted the politically correct narrative that seems omnipresent in most news coverage of ICE raids these days, spotlighting the disruption and dislocation of the lives of illegal immigrants; for me the story raised a different question.
Was Howard Industries now hiring? I decided to give their corporate office a call.
Here’s how the first call went: “Hello, Howard Industries.” “Yes, I was wondering if your company was now hiring American citizens at a fair wage?” Click. Here’s how my second call went: “Hello, Howard Industries.” “Hi, I was wondering if your company was hiring American citizens now?” This time my call was transferred to a woman named Denise.
“Yes, I was just wondering if you were going to hire Americans now that all the illegal immigrants you employed have been arrested?” “And who am I speaking with?” “I am a concerned American citizen.” At this point Denise´s tone became very irate.
“Well, Mr. Concerned American Citizen, you are welcome to come down here and stand in line for a job. We’ve got people lined up here now ready to work. If you’re so concerned, we’ll hire you, if you can pass our tests.” “I see, and does that include an English competency exam?” Click. Hey, the employees that were arrested in the raid were speaking through interpreters, so I thought it was a fair question. Oh well.
Still, I was able to determine a few things from our brief chat. One, according to Denise, is that people were now “lined up” looking for work at Howard Industries. Which was a little odd for her to acknowledge, considering businesses like Howard Industries are usually crying about a labor shortage of American citizens willing to work.
Of course the reality is that ICE agents hit a manufacturing plant where transformers are made, and according to the company´s Web site, Howard Industries is a global technologies firm that specializes in medical technology, lighting technology and something called “distribution and power products.” This was no meat packing plant or a lettuce field.
Perhaps the real give-away that Americans are ready, willing and able to do these jobs (besides the line at the hiring desk) is that the ICE raid was triggered by a tip from a union member and, according to an illegal immigrant caught in the raid, the American employees at the plant began to applaud as the arrests were made. My chat with the friendly folks at Howard Industries also confirmed a suspicion that many Americans have had about businesses that hire masses of illegal immigrants: that the management and executives at these firms radiate a casual contempt for American workers that they have a difficult time concealing.
Instead of managing what is clearly a public relations debacle from any way you look at it — cutting out American workers, exploiting illegal immigrants, violating labor laws, etc. — Howard Industries is clearly unrepentant; hanging up on callers and angrily spitting out sarcastic taunts rather than a conciliatory acknowledgement that they need to do better than this.
No, Denise´s derisive rejoinder came from Howard Industries corporate heart and the message is loud and clear: They don´t give a damn.
The ICE raid at Howard Industries is being applauded by more than just the citizens working for them, it is being cheered with “about time!” muttered under the breaths of Americans across the country that are fed up.
But the illegal immigrants arrested at Howard Industries aren´t the only ones who should have a court date. In fact, they probably shouldn´t have been the first ones to wear handcuffs.
Hopefully the phone will ring in the front office at Howard Industries sometime soon and it won´t be a concerned American, but rather the Justice Department on Line One.
Mark Cromer is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.