Osiel Lopez Perez suffered severe personal injury while working in extremely dangerous conditions at a Case Farms chicken plant. He lost his left leg while cleaning a machine. Perez is an illegal immigrant worker. He’s 17 year old. He left Guatemala after his mother was shot by a gang that also tried to kidnap his sisters. At the time of the accident, Perez had to sanitize a liver giblet chiller. To do so he was supposed to first climb on a ladder to turn off the water valve above the machine. Because there was no ladder available, his supervisor showed him how to climb onto the machine to reach the water valve. One day, as he was standing on the machine his foot slipped into the machine which automatically started. His whole left leg was ripped off by the machine. For years OSHA inspectors have been warning the plant about the dangerous habits of workers climbing onto the machinery for cleaning purposes. The accident was completely preventable, simply by providing employees with ladders.
One of the biggest suppliers of chicken for the entire country, Case Farm chicken plant has a long history of abusing vulnerable immigrant workers. According to a recent investigation by Michael Grabell from ProPublica in collaboration with the New Yorker, Case Farms chicken plants are some of the most dangerous places to work in the U.S. The company was fined $2 million in 2015 for disregarding worker safety. Over the last 7 years the company was cited 240 times for workers safety violations.
Companies that are hiring immigrants workers can be fined for doing so and employers can be sent to jail according to an immigration law that was passed by Congress 30 years ago. However this law is rarely applied, allowing abusive employers to evade responsibilities. Under The Obama Presidency, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agreed not to go after undocumented workers during labor disputes. Will this agreement remain now that Trump took over? Workers advocates worry that ICE may ditch it. If an employee is injured and complains, employers who have a history of abusing and neglecting illegal immigrant workers may then just call ICE to have them deported.