Immigration and Minnesota

Deporting undocumented immigrants is harmful to families and communities.

President Bush delivered a speech near the Mexico border last Monday in which he continued to push for vast changes in current immigration policy. In the wake of widespread raids on communities with undocumented immigrants, the tone of Bush’s words could not be ignored.

Bush urged Congress to pass legislation that respects the United States’ rich tradition of immigration and acknowledged the “family values” that drive individuals to enter the country. Despite Bush’s compassionate sentiment, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents launched another raid on a meat processing plant in Minnesota within a day of his speech.

While the approximately 50 detainees in Willmar are only a footnote compared to the 1,200 arrests made during a large, multistate raid last December, which included Minnesota, the aggressive policy warrants massive scrutiny. Even if we ignore the questionable legality and methods of ICE operations, the raids are tearing apart families and disrupting local economies.

For the undocumented immigrants that have made their homes here and raised families here, there is no guarantee of amnesty. Depending on the outcome of their court hearings, individuals can be deported and separated from children and other family members.

The economic fallout from the December raids was felt significantly in the communities surrounding the targeted meat processing plants. The sudden departure of 230 workers from a Worthington pork processing plant forced production to plummet. Hog farmers across the state suddenly had fewer buyers, and prices for swine also dropped.

Politicians tend to simplify the issue with language pitting us against them – Americans versus everyone else. But they live in our communities, they work in our businesses, they contribute to our economy, and they want to live the same dream we do. At what point do they cease being undocumented immigrants and become Americans? And at what point do we stop saying “them” and start saying “us”?