Workers’ rights among undocumented immigrants continues to be a major issue throughout the country, yet the midwestern town of Beardstown, Illinois, believes immigration is what helped its economy thrive, according to Reuters. Located approximately 200 miles southwest of Chicago, Beardstown is one rural area whose economy is more fruitful due to newly-immigrated residents.
One new resident is forty-four-year-old Bozi Kiekie, an immigrant from Congo, entered a lottery to come to the United States on a work visa. After Kiekie won a visa, he moved to Beardstown.
Kiekie left his teaching job in the Congo to work at a meatpacking plant, something he said is very different from what he is used to doing, but completely worth it. Kiekie told the source his coworkers consist of more than 900 immigrants from 34 different countries, who all came to the United States for the same reason he did: to find a better life.
While the the many immigrant workers who are employed at the Beardstown plant view their job as a blessing, the town of Beardstown believes the immigrants provide a great boost to their local economy as well – the opportunity, it seems, is mutual.
According to Reuters, longtime residents of Beardstown continually advocated for a legal workforce and higher wages in the meatpacking plant. Today, base salary at the plant is $13.65 per hour – much higher than federal minimum wage – and most employees are found through visa programs and lottery systems.
Although the Beardstown plant provides a morally sound opportunity for its immigrant workers, many immigrants settle for work that pays wages below what is legally acceptable. Some establishments have made headlines for taking advantage of workers without valid U.S. citizenship. For example, the owners of a Columbia, South Carolina, Mexican restaurant were recently ordered to pay 11 employees $170,666 after claims that they failed to pay the workers adequate paychecks.