In the Age of Donald Trump, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is everywhere. Thus, over the summer, I visited my old home area of northeastern Ohio/western Pennsylvania as reports circulated of ICE expanding their “containment” sites for refugees. When you visit the lily-white sections of “Real America,” you learn the real story of ICE and illegal immigrants. Republican business owners give immigrants crappy jobs that Republican voters won’t do themselves.
Illegal Immigrants and “Real America”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rightfully called these ICE containment sites “concentration camps” because they reflect the “mass detention of civilians without trial” at the behest of a majority group that deems the camp detainees to be “dangerous or undesirable in some way.” The white residents of so-called “Real America” believe that immigrants from Latin America threaten white jobs and white culture. However, the reality of life in mythical “Real America” throws some cold water on this hot hypocrisy.
Dirty work in the Mahoning/Shenango Valleys
I was picking up some potted plants with my mom at a locally-owned nursery in western Pennsylvania. I won’t name the place, but it’s in Mercer County, PA. As we perused the greenhouse, we noticed that several gentleman who spoke only Spanish kept the place tidy. This greenhouse is in the broader Mahoning–Shenango Valley. Furthermore, it’s about twenty minutes away from the Yankee Kitchen diner in Vienna Township, Ohio. Back in May, the New York Times interviewed Trump supporters at this diner. One such Trump supporter claimed that, “people pouring over the border is unacceptable. We’re funding everybody on the planet.”
Of course, that guy lives in Trumbull County, Ohio, which is 89 percent white. But that’s not even the point. Because while he imagines that an invading brown hoard is crossing the border to usurp his American birthright, in reality, undocumented Hispanic people are all around him. In northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, undocumented workers labor in the greenhouses and meat-packing plants operated by local Republican-voting businesses-owners. They cut middle-class white people’s lawns, they work on farms, and they work at trades like roofing and carpentry because the white owners of those companies can pay them less and don’t have to provide them benefits.
Who hires them?
So who hires “illegal” workers? When ICE raided the Fresh Mark meat plant in Salem, Ohio in June 2019, many locals expressed approval. Christopher Smith, a Salem resident who sports a Gadsden Flag on his front porch, huffed that, “there’s a lot of Americans out of work, and illegals are taking our jobs.” Other locals held similar sentiments, claiming they “would work at Fresh Mark, especially if the wages were higher.” Maybe so. But it seems that business owners would rather pay lower wages for cheap foreign labor. After all, that’s American capitalism in action.
Neil Genshaft is the CEO of Fresh Mark. As Cleveland.com noted, he “has a history of donating to local and national Republican candidates.” Because of course he does. Genshaft’s Salem plant also has a history: it’s been the site of numerous labor violations involving undocumented workers. Because of course it has.
“Illegals” at the border
The “illegals” at the border that white Trump supporters dehumanize are literally right in those white Trump supporters’ own backyards. This is because the ruling local Republican fiefdom hires them on the cheap to work jobs that good ole’ boy Real Americans won’t do. This is the real story of American immigration: “illegal” immigrants, otherwise known as human beings, come to the “Real America” to work because white-Republican business-owners give them crappy jobs that white-Republican voters won’t do themselves.
If “Real Americans” want to build a wall to keep “illegals” out of America, they can start by building a whole bunch of walls around every white business-owner in every stretch of rural America who hires hardworking immigrants to do their dirty work for them.