Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Every American knows that one of the biggest blights upon America’s legacy of freedom and economic opportunity was slavery. Slaves were pushed beyond normal limits. In fact, they were treated like chattel or livestock versus full-fledged human beings. In addition to atrocious working conditions, slaves were often disciplined severely with whippings, torture, and lynching. It took the nation over a hundred years and a civil war to wean itself from its first addiction to cheap labor.

Like a man returning to smoking, our generation has once again gotten hooked on cheap labor. Unfortunately, we are forgetting that this kind of labor may be dangerous to our national health.

What am I referring to? The cheap labor of illegal aliens. They are victims of what I would like to call “the new slavery.” Although the problem can be solved, it is important to remember that the situation is complex both morally and economically. The advocates of amnesty programs often opine that U.S. citizens are not willing to do jobs that “illegals” eagerly perform.

Last month, Swift & Co. was raided and 1,200 people were arrested on alleged identity theft and immigration violations. This company is a meat processor who was hit in six states by federal authorities. This kind of raid sends a signal to large companies that they are not exempt from the laws of the land. A slap on their wrists with financial ramifications and lots of negative PR will go a long way towards creating a sense of urgency with regard to reforming “the new slavery.” Swift will have to create an American-caliber job site – instead of a third world plant on American soil.

As much as I rejoice over the way companies like Swift are handled, I am concerned about smaller companies operating in remote areas. These companies’ survival may actually be challenged by hasty enforcement transitions. Let me give you an example of what can happen in a small community.

Labor Day weekend, Crider Inc. based in Stillmore, GA lost nearly 700 of its mostly Hispanic 900-member work force. Stillmore has an interesting history. In the late 1990s, Hispanics began to move to the area. Since then the Hispanic population has tripled in the state of Georgia. Therefore, problems we would equate to border towns in other states began to occur in the deep South - the buckle of the “Bible Belt.” At that time, Crider’s processing lines were made up predominantly of African-Americans.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.