foodandpoliticsclass

Employment of Undocumented Immigrants in the Food Industry

Posted on: May 2, 2011

The food industry is often found guilty of employing undocumented immigrants.  For companies, employing immigrants brings about several benefits that are not seen in the hiring of citizens.  Employing undocumented immigrants allows companies to pay workers low wages and provide overall bad working conditions.  The clip above, taken from the film Food, Inc. shows how the food industry benefits from illegal immigration.  It also shows that when immigrants are caught working, they are the ones who are arrested.  Is it ethical to only arrest the workers who risk their lives to complete dangerous jobs?

Often, companies receive minimal penalties when they are caught employing undocumented immigrants.  Punishments usually include a fine which is easily paid by the big companies that hire these workers.  There are some cases in which the employers have been arrested for employing undocumented immigrants, but most cases are not exposed.  There are so many instances of large companies employing undocumented immigrants, but only a few are are publicized and lead to punishments for the companies.

Many undocumented workers are given cleaning crew jobs in meatpacking plants, like the one shown above.  Working on the cleaning crew is one of the most dangerous jobs featured in meatpacking plants.  Many incidents have resulted in the deaths of workers.  Not only do immigrants perform these life risking jobs, but they also must live in the constant fear of being caught, which would mean punishment in the form of arrest or deportation.  Overall, undocumented immigrants are exposed to much unfair treatment while employers often go unpunished.  Is this treatment right?  What can be done to change the current situation of employing undocumented immigrants?

If the government is trying to enforce a decrease, or complete extinction, of undocumented immigrants working, they should provide companies with more severe punishments.  Though punishing the workers does give them a reason to not apply for these jobs, it seems to not be effective enough.  Undocumented workers continue to be hired.  If companies feel the fear of being caught hiring undocumented workers, they may feel more incentive to hire skilled workers.  A lack of this fear presents hiring undocumented immigrants as a positive experience because companies are free from the worry of labor unions and providing fair working conditions.

References:

Schlosser, Eric. (2001). Fast Food Nation. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Weber, Karl. (2009). Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer — and What You Can Do About It. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.

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