Swift & Company announced Wednesday morning that operations had resumed after federal authorities raided six of the company’s meatpacking plants on Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division served warrants at the facilities in Cactus, Texas; Grand Island, Neb.; Greeley, Colo.; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minn. The raids are part of an ongoing investigation into illegal immigrants and potential identity theft.
According to Swift, DHS has detained about 1,300 workers. The company was able to resume operations on all shifts at the facilities on Wednesday but expects lower-than-normal output in the short term. For more information, follow this link.
Swift & Company is the world's second largest processor of fresh pork and beef with more than $9 billion in annual sales. Company officials indicate that the plan is to operate on Saturday, but its reduced work force will likely hamper its ability to return to full operations.
Some analysts estimate the ICE raids will cost Swift $100 million.
But the packer is not alone in bearing the cost of Tuesday's ICE raids; local communities were also hit hard. The raids were characterized as the "largest workplace-site enforcement action ever." Local Social Services offices were not informed of the raids beforehand, which put the offices in crisis mode. Mothers and fathers were arrested while children were in school, leaving many in foster care. The raids also disrupted merchants as they saw buying power leave their community two weeks before Christmas.
The ICE sweep raised the level of debate over immigration to new heights. U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), an outspoken advocate of stricter immigration laws, praised the raids. He hopes Swift officials are prosecuted if they were involved in hiring any illegal immigrants. But others denounced the raids as splitting families and arresting some Americans based on the color of their skin.
The impact on the meat industry could be significant as packers scramble to find documented workers and keep their lines moving. Depending on how this unfolds, negative economic impact could trickle down through the food chain, stalling marketings and hurting prices.