In late 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel raided six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, and Utah. Workers in the industry had seen a dramatic decline in wages over the previous 30 years, with the average wages of meatpackers in 2007 45 percent lower than those in 1980, adjusted for inflation. Work throughout the industry, and at the six Swift plants, is characterized by difficult and dangerous conditions. It is estimated that 23 percent of Swift’s production workers at the time of the raids were illegal immigrants. The study showed:
- All plants resumed production the same day as the raised, and returned to production within five moths, showing that they could operate at full capacity without the presence of illegal workers.
- After the raids, the number of native-born workers increased significantly. Swift also recruited a large number of refugees who are legal immigrants.
- Wages and bonuses rose an average of 8 percent with the departure of illegal immigrants.
- In addition to pay increases, Swift paid bonuses to new employees, and to current employees who recruited others. It also advertised heavily, paid relocation expenses, and provided daily transportation from distant population centers.
- Many members of the communities were enthusiastically supportive of the raids; others were sharply critical.