The meat industry voiced concern on Saturday about the possible impact of President Donald Trump’s executive order designed to slow and limit refugee immigration into the United States.
“As the administration pursues changes to the nation’s refugee policies, we hope it will give careful consideration to the ramifications policy changes like these can have on our businesses and on foreign born workers who are eager to build new lives in America through the jobs our companies can offer,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter in a statement.
The order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” signed Jan. 27, includes a four-month suspension to the nation’s refugee program and cuts the number of refugees this year by more than half, to 50,000.
Refugee applicants who are already in the program may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of revised procedures, according to the order. After four months “the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States,” according to the order.
“Historically, our industry has been an excellent starting point for new Americans,” said Carpenter. “Immigrants and refugees can be an important component of some companies’ labor forces, especially in rural areas where low unemployment creates a tight labor supply.”
Refugee number unclear
Carpenter said that while the Meat Institute does not have data on the number of refugees employed by the meat industry, “We can say that refugees, like all foreign born, are valued members of our 500,000 person workforce. Companies that employ refugees work with local governments and with refugee organizations to help refugees assimilate into American culture and communities.”
A recent University of Kansas (KU) study concluded that Garden City, Kan., home to a Tyson Foods beef packing plant, sets a positive example for how a community can help new immigrants and refugees assimilate.
Tyson’s Finney County complex, as it is called, employs 3,200 workers, according to the company’s website.
The plant in southwest Kansas has attracted immigrants and refugees seeking employment since IBP opened the facility in 1980, KU said. Refugees from Vietnam and immigrants from across Latin America have been joined more recently by refugees from nations such as Somalia and Myanmar.
Rural communities across the country have had similar experiences as food processing became central to many local economies in the 1980s and 1990s.
KU researchers spent five months in Garden City interviewing educators and community leaders and observing how schools taught a student population in which as many as 21 languages other than English are commonly spoken.
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday will hold a news conference at its Capitol Hill headquarters in Washington, D.C., to announce it is filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of more than 20 individuals challenging the executive order.
The lawsuit, to be filed in the U.S. District Court – Eastern District of Virginia, will challenge the constitutionality of the order, charging that its purpose appears to be to ban people of the Islamic faith from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
“There is no evidence that refugees – the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation – are a threat to national security,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “This is an order that is based on bigotry, not reality.”