Transcript/Biography

Up
Down

"To me, it's extremely simple. We have a state that went through a farm crisis. We invited immigrants to come as a way of resolving part of our farm crisis. Immigrants are human beings. They have children. Guess what, there is no visa program that the federal government has established that allows the kind of workers that we need in Nebraska to be here legally…
     "Yes it was meat packing plants that – as they moved away from Omaha especially and as they were restructuring throughout the entire industry and the region not only Nebraska – they began to look for towns where they will be closer to the cattle they would slaughter and they would be closer to the necessary productive input. And as they moved also away from unions and away from some of the environmental regulations that now they were not able to meet and these were being challenged on that basis. And as they moved to these rural areas, of course, what they faced is a shortage of population or labor force initially. And I think that the meat packing managers, owners knew well that this was an issue and they would have to put together a labor force through a variety of means and probably throughout various stages. That they would start out with whatever they could find locally, which they tried. There was a lot of talk initially about housewives or farmwives, unemployed farmers especially as we entered farm crisis. And so many farmers were not able to maintain an income just simply by working on the farm but were working part time. So part time farmers, farm wives, all of that appears quite visibly during the initial years in the public pronouncements, in the newspaper articles and in the interviews that we ourselves, myself and others did along the way."
     [Question:] "And what years are we talking about?"
     "And we are talking 80s, primarily. I mean, the process starts early but really when the preamble to immigration is late 80s. And by '89, for example IBP [Iowa Beef Processors] announces that it's opening a plant in Lexington, Nebraska, as one major example. And it's one that I know well because of my work there. And obviously it becomes clear very quickly that there isn't sufficient labor force to maintain this, to meet the capacity of this plant that was very much welcome, even if reluctantly by some [in Lexington] it was a saving grace. Because as you may remember, the Sperry-New Holland Industry that was there earlier closed down. This was not just a farm crisis. This was a rural crisis. This was a state crisis. This was a national recession. And from the very beginning there were rumors that they would probably have to recruit immigrants…
     "IBP – not only in that plant, but for other plants – begins to set the pace (as they did in other aspects of the industry) and launch a major recruitment effort that included full time recruitment agents that scout the country, that place commercials along the border and in areas of very high new immigrant concentration such as California, Los Angeles and in Texas in some areas, Chicago, Illinois, and even in Garden City, Kansas, in places where they had already begun to come a little earlier. And so that becomes really the impetus for the very large new wave of migration of immigrants from Asia and Latin America primarily at the beginning of the 1990s, one that continues until today. And so where we are today is that in many of these rural communities, particularly what we call meat packing communities, immigrant labor is the primary and probably the only labor force that can supply the thousands of workers that are needed…
     "If Nebraska were to try to get rid of the immigrants, you can be sure the state goes under, especially at a moment when we are confronting major national indicators of recession."

Lourdes Gouveia – The New Wave

   

Excerpts from Lourdes Gouveia’s Interview:

A Nation of Immigrants
The New Wave
Immigration & Language
Immigration Slowing Down