Swift Raided for Complying with Immigration Laws

In today’s Washington Post, Manhattan Institute fellow Tamar Jacoby points out a little-noticed irony in Tuesday’s immigration raid against Swift & Co’s meat processing plants: many of the workers hired illegally got their jobs because the government wouldn’t allow Swift to investigate the credentials of suspect applicants.

Seen in one light, the raids were perfectly justified. Both employer and employees were breaking the law. It’s a law that’s being violated on a massive scale from coast to coast, and the public is increasingly upset about it.

The only catch: Swift has been trying for years to comply with our poorly conceived immigration laws, coping as best it could with an impossible situation. Like a driver who finally goes through a broken traffic light, the company and its workers aren’t the problem — the system is. …

Far from ignoring or shrugging off the law, the firm has been trying to comply with it. When job applicants started showing up with what the company suspected were false papers, it tried inquiring into their backgrounds — only to be sued for discrimination by the Justice Department.

When the government created a program meant to help employers verify that their workers were in the country legally by checking Social Security numbers against a central database, Swift was among the first to sign up. And when that program didn’t seem to be catching the worst offenders — people using not false Social Security cards but stolen ones — Swift came to Washington to testify in Congress about the problem. The reward: That was precisely the offense that ICE raided the company for on Tuesday.

As Division of Labour’s Wilson Mixon argues, apparently “[g]ood deeds don’t go unpunished.” If nothing else, these raids demonstrate the need for a comprehensive package of immigration reform that either allows employers to make use of the tools they need to verify their employees are, in fact, legally present in the United States or immunizes them from liability for hiring workers with facially valid documentation and whose legal status has been verified by the government SSN database.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Economics and Business, US Politics, , , , ,
Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. Steve Verdon says:

    Not that I expect this to make a bit of difference to the Malkinites and their ilk.

  2. Kent G. Budge says:

    Steve, it’s possible to remain concerned with ilegal immigrants while seeing the obvious stupidity of the INS action here.

    Also, I’m guessing the right word is not “ilk” but “coven.”

  3. Steve Verdon says:


    Well, I’m concerned about immigration. I’m also aware of the mess that our immigration policies are. Just that when it comes to immigration I don’t take a stance like Malkin and her coven that smacks of racism and xenophobia. As you know, my main concern is security and that I think the economic arguments are bogus.

  4. Kent G. Budge says:


    Agree that security is the main concern, and economics per se is a non-issue.

    I sometimes worry about assimilation, but considering what a lousy job we’re already doing of assimilating our own children into our civilization, the immigrants are probably a second-order effect.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    Good point on the kids. Sometimes it is hard not to think of them as aliens…as in from another planet, let alone another country.