The New York Times recently published an article titled, “ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back.” The piece describes a supposedly ominous worksite enforcement action by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the allegedly valiant efforts of Morristown, Tenn., residents to push back against President Trump’s immigration policies. The desired image is clearly one of a small town with morals that transcend American laws, gallantly reaching out to global neighbors “who just need work.” Except that the whole story is an open-borders fantasy ginned up by the Times.
Attempting to build drama, the piece begins by describing “dozens of panicked workers” at Southeastern Provision, a local meatpacking plant, who fled from ICE agents by “wedging themselves between beef carcasses or crouching under bloody butcher tables.” But reality rapidly intrudes on the Grey Lady’s narrative of victimization. You see, even the Times couldn’t avoid the fact that ICE was arresting people who were, in fact, unlawfully present in the United States, and who had no authorization to accept employment here.
According to the Times, Southeastern Provision offered a “major advantage” for illegal aliens – it knowingly hired them and paid them cash. Alma, a Mexican illegal alien interviewed by the Times, said the meatpacking plant was a place where illegal aliens could get work using their real names.
Then it turns out that ICE began investigating the business because the Internal Revenue Service had evidence that it was withdrawing millions in cash to pay illegal workers under the table. And an informant working at the plant, “told investigators that workers felt they couldn’t complain about poor working conditions because of their immigration status.” The informant also observed workers being forced to work unpaid overtime and handle hazardous materials without proper protective equipment.
To make a long story short, the Times is criticizing ICE for enforcing federal immigration laws against a large group of people who conspired to engage in criminal activity: Illegal aliens who had no right to be here, or work here, and an employer that was willing to increase its profits by forcing those illegal aliens to work in dangerous conditions, sometimes without pay. (The nerve of those ICE agents, engaging in congressionally sanctioned enforcement of laws against fraud and abuse!)
So, how exactly did the people of Morristown “fight back against ICE”? Well, the truth is that they didn’t. The local Catholic church seems to have become a gathering place for friends and family of the individuals arrested in the raid. Apparently, in the eyes of the nation’s “paper of record,” handing out pizza and tamales during presentations from legal aid groups constitutes a stunning blow for the underdog – even if the underdog is clearly breaking the law.
Oh yeah, and a week later, approximately 300 people marched through downtown Morristown protesting ICE’s action. If that strikes you as a particularly small protest, that’s because it is. Morristown has a population of roughly 30,000 people. That means barely one percent of the local population turned out to fight the power. With that stunning level of righteous indignation, is it possible that any local ICE employees aren’t quaking in their boots?
It seems that the editors of the New York Times have either had a complete break with reality – or maybe they’re just scraping the very bottom of the barrel in their fruitless search to portray ICE as a band of heartless thugs that targets the “innocent.” Meanwhile, maybe the U.S. citizens, and legal immigrants, living in Morristown can expect local employers to start offering market wages and safer working conditions.
Matthew J. O’Brien writes for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).