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Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda Imperils Food Supply

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  By jeopardizing immigrant security, he jeopardizes American food security

Yesterday we learned of a major South Dakota meatpacking plant closing down due to an outbreak of infections among the workers. Just like that, 5% of the nation’s pork supply was gone. This comes on top of the agricultural industry worries over labor shortages.

Against a backdrop of images of Americans waiting in long lines for food assistance, there is growing worry about food insecurity in America. Immigrant workers play a key role in the food supply chain. Unfortunately, these “essential workers” are in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Immigrants and refugees are the backbone of our food supply chain. They do essential work in fields and farms, at meatpacking and poultry plants, and for restaurants and food delivery operations. However, if we don’t have a healthy and dependable workforce, we won’t have a healthy and dependable food supply.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration seems more interested in the politics of immigrant-bashing than in the health and safety of this indispensable workforce. They demonize and dehumanize immigrants and refugees as threats. They seek to cut farmworkers’ pay at a time when they should be receiving hardship pay. They scare immigrants away from testing and treatment should they get sick. They exclude immigrants from essential healthcare and recovery efforts. And they relentlessly pursue a detention and deportation agenda designed to drive immigrants out of the country.

In this time of national crisis, it’s important to stop and think about who plants, harvests and transports the food that ends up on the shelves and in our homes. Attacking immigrants, scaring immigrants and depriving immigrants who are risking their lives to save ours is cruel, cynical and profoundly counterproductive.

Below are reminders about the fragile nature of our food supply and how the anti-immigrant agenda threatens its security:

  • MSNBC’s “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” “How secure is the U.S. food supply chain?” A segment from last night’s show underscores the fragile nature of the food supply and its reliance on immigrant workers.
  • Wall Street Journal: “The Coronavirus Challenges Facing U.S. Farms: Get Workers, Keep Them Healthy– reporter Jesse Newman writes, “Farms and orchards across the country are scrambling to ensure a steady supply of workers—and keep them healthy—as the coronavirus pandemic highlights a critical vulnerability in America’s food chain: labor … Picking crops is skilled work, and farm owners said U.S.-born workers rarely last more than a few days, making it tough to hire workers unfamiliar with farm labor.”
  • NPR, “White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry: The piece quotes Erik Nicholson, national vice president for the United Farm Workers, who “says people who have worked in agriculture for decades are concerned they are going to lose their jobs. And he said vulnerable guest workers are not being provided proper hand-washing facilities and still being forced to live in cramped housing. ‘So in the middle of a pandemic, rather than trying to figure out the cheap way to do things, we need to make sure we live up to the expectations society has of us as an industry to keep the food flowing.’”