Rep. Lamar Smith Misses The Big Picture On Workplace Raids

August 18, 2011 3:30 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Rep. Lamar Smith

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the anti-immigrant chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been adamant in his support for workplace raids in order to open up more opportunities for unemployed Americans. To bolster his point, he recently penned a letter to the editor for the Washington Times in which he gave an example of a company that was involved in a workplace raid:

For example, when Georgia's Crider Inc. lost more than 600 illegal workers following an ICE work-site enforcement action, the company increased wages by $1 an hour and attracted legal workers. There are stories like this all over the United States: Enforce immigration laws, and unemployed Americans will be back on the payroll and earning a living for themselves and their families.

However, Smith's rosy picture doesn't tell the whole story. Crider's plant is located close to the town of Stillmore, GA. After immigration officials began to raid the town, it devastated the small local economy and local families. As the Associated Press reported at the time:

Trailer parks lie abandoned. The poultry plant is scrambling to replace more than half its workforce. Business has dried up at stores where Mexican laborers once lined up to buy food, beer and cigarettes just weeks ago.

This Georgia community of about 1,000 people has become little more than a ghost town since Sept. 1, when federal agents began rounding up illegal immigrants.

The sweep has had the unintended effect of underscoring just how vital the illegal immigrants were to the local economy.

In addition, the workplace raids broke up families. As one Stillmore resident, trailer park owner David Robinson — one of many who lost business after the raid — stated: "These people might not have American rights, but they've damn sure got human rights. There ain't no reason to treat them like animals."

Stillmore isn't just a one-off incident; this same situation is being replicated across the country as a consequence of harsh immigration laws. This season, American farmers in Georgia were expecting almost $1 million in crop losses and contractors in tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa, Alabama were having difficulty finding workers to rebuild the town after new laws were implemented. In the case of Stillmore, GA, harsh enforcement tactics nearly closed a whole town.