Republicans are using Tyson’s decision to hire migrants to push their “Great Replacement” lie

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Leadership from Tyson Foods announced last week they would be shuttering one of the company’s pork plants in Perry, Iowa. It’s not great news for a town that is home to just over 7,800 people, however the shutdown comes after news of over ten similar closures that punctuated a year of record losses for the pork industry; in 2023, there was average loss for producers of about $32 per hog

The same day Tyson made that announcement, the head of the company’s social efforts division, Garret Dolan, appeared in an article by Bloomberg with the headline “Tyson Is Hiring New York Immigrants for Jobs No One Else Wants.” The story details how companies like Tyson are struggling to fill what they characterize as “unpleasant jobs” with a US unemployment rate of 3.9%. As a result, the meatpacker is joining the nonprofit Tent Partnership for Refugees with a plan to hire some of the nearly 200,000 migrants who have come through New York City’s intake system over the past two years.

In the article, Dolan stated that Tyson “would like to employ another 42,000 [immigrants] if we could find them.” 

Currently, according to Bloomberg, Tyson already employs about 42,000 immigrants among its 120,000-member American workforce, which is very likely why he invoked that specific number. However, in light of the news out of Perry, some top-level Republicans — including Ohio senator and potential Trump running mate JD Vance — are spinning a narrative wherein Americans are being replaced with thousands of migrant workers, leading some to refer to the situation as “‘The Great Replacement’ in motion.” 

Strands of Great Replacement theory, sometimes also called the “white genocide” theory, originated in the late 19th century, but the concept was introduced to the wider contemporary public through the release of French author Renaud Camus’ 2011 book “Le Grand Replacement..” The theory, which has gained significant popularity in alt-right circles, argues that there is some deliberate plot among global leaders to replace white populations in Western countries with non-white immigrants. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “the ‘great replacement’ philosophy was quickly adopted and promoted by the white supremacist movement, as it fit into their conspiracy theory about the impending destruction of the white race, also know as ‘white genocide.’ It is also a strong echo of the white supremacist rallying cry, ‘the 14 words:’ ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’”

The theory has been widely discredited by scholars and experts, who argue that it is a lie based on racist and xenophobic beliefs rather than factual evidence. Despite this, it continues to influence extremist ideologies and has been linked to acts of violence and terrorism. For example, Payton S. Gendron, who killed 10 in a 2022 mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, allegedly wrote “a 180-page document filled with hateful rants about race and ties to the ‘great replacement,” according to NPR

Sometimes, like in the case of chatter on social media about the Tyson situation, references to the theory are more straightforward. For instance, one YouTube video from the conservative account Pinball Preparedness, which has 109,000 subscribers, is literally titled: “The Great Replacement Theory in Action.” 

“Well, Tyson Foods just did it,” the video description read. “They are getting rid of American workers and openly admitting they are trying to hire Illegals to replace them.  Get ready, your stores, schools, communities…are all about to have you living as the problem if we let this continue.” 

All we know is that they are firing American workers and hiring illegal aliens to replace them.

However, sometimes Republicans’ allusions to the theory in public are a little more muted, though they are meant to stoke similar fears among their followers. For instance, Senator Vance appeared on Fox News’ “Jesse Watters Primetime” on Thursday and suggested that Tyson was complicit in the “decimation of the American dream.” 

“All we know is that they are firing American workers and hiring illegal aliens to replace them,” Vance said. “This is the entire point of illegal immigration — and Republicans, we’ve got to hammer this point home.”

This is, of course, despite the fact that studies from the Pew Research Center shows that Americans generally agree that immigrants, whether undocumented or living legally in the country, mostly “do not work in jobs that U.S. citizens want” which a majority saying so across racial and ethnic groups and among both political parties. According to a 2020 survey, about 77% of adults say undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs U.S. citizens do not want. Remember the title of that Bloomberg article? “Tyson Is Hiring New York Immigrants for Jobs No One Else Wants.” 

In this case, Republicans’ “Great Replacement” narrative also assumes that all the Tyson plant employees who are losing their jobs in Perry are white. According to reports from NPR, Perry is one of only four communities in Iowa where Latinos make up at least one third of the population, many of whom were drawn there specifically for manufacturing and factory jobs. While Tyson did not respond to immediate requests for comment about the plant closure — or the demographic makeup of those affected —local news reports indicate that the Perry Latino community is deeply impacted by the news. 

Knock and Drop Iowa, a nonprofit organization based in Des Moines, is raising money to help support the employees who will be out of a job on June 28, the plant’s last official day. “We know that there’s a lot of Latino families — they work at Tyson,” Zuli Garcia, the organization’s founder, said in an interview with KCCI Des Moines

Garcia continued: “That’s their place. That’s where they live. That’s where they work. That’s their home.”

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