A couple of weeks ago, “desktop” raids took place at Valu Thrift in Sun Ray shopping center and Unique Thrift at Rice Street and Larpenteur. These raids were done by U.S. Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
Desktop raids occur when ICE requests all documentation from a particular employer. After two weeks or so, ICE informs the employer which employees have to be let go.
This system is very different from the military-style raids from the Bush era, but nonetheless, they still have devastating effects. Some people say that about 75 people, many from the East Side, lost their jobs in the thrift store raids, so up to 75 families were affected.
Now, before we start judging people for being here without documents, let’s look at some of the reasons why people come here that way. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has played a big role in people coming here without documents. NAFTA was introduced with the promise that it was going to create better jobs for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The opposite happened in Mexico. NAFTA opened the door for corn to be imported from the U.S. the staple food in Mexico. Corn was so cheap that farmers in Mexico started to lose money every time they planted it, which created a big migration.
Another affect was the expansion of the maquiladoras (U.S. factories along the U.S./Mexico border). These factories that moved from the U.S. to Mexico used to pay good wages and benefits but when the door opened in Mexico, things changed. The maquiladoras were paying $5.00 a day, with no overtime pay, no benefits and women forced to take a pregnancy test once a week. If the test was positive they lost their job. So what do we expect people to do, when they know just across the border in the U.S. people were being paid $5.00 an hour with overtime and benefits.
The people that lost their jobs are human beings and I hope we put ourselves in their situation. Most of the people in the U.S. have ancestors who made the same decision. They came here to make a better life for themselves and their families. I also hope that you can call your Congress person and tell them to vote on Immigration Reform so people can work and feed their families in peace because at the end of the day that is all they want, just like your ancestors did.
Rafael Espinosa is a representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1189. He is also the Vice president of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council.