2013 Video screenshot, Smithfield Foods (from the Before Times)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said at a press conference this week that undocumented immigrants working at the state's meatpacking plants will probably not be able to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, because it's not legal for them to be working anyway. Meat processing plants have been among the hardest-hit workplaces during the pandemic, so Nebraska has put meatpacking workers near the top of its priority list for getting the vaccine, after emergency responders, healthcare workers, teachers, and such. Nonetheless, Ricketts explained in response to a reporter's question that the vaccine will definitely ask "Papers, please," even though the virus itself does not:

You're supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants. So I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of that vaccine program.

Ricketts did not explain how refusing to vaccinate a portion of the workforce would help control the spread of the virus, because clearly that's a far less important matter than making sure he seems tough on immigration, don't be silly.


Fortunately, Ricketts also explained, in slightly different terms, that not vaccinating undocumented workers wouldn't be a problem at all, since it's simply inconceivable that anyone without papers would be working at a meat plant in the first place:

If you're working in the plants you're supposed to be here legally [...] So to get the vaccination, you gotta be working here legally to be a part of the food-processing program, so there's not going to be a conflict here.

Come on, that's just logic! Oh, sure, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that 66 percent of workers in the meatpacking industry are immigrants, and 14 percent of meat processing workers are undocumented, but maybe that doesn't apply to Nebraska because the governor said so.

Nebraska meatpackers have been particularly badly hit by COVID-19, as Business Insider points out:

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting clocked Nebraska as having the highest number of COVID-19 cases originating from meatpacking plants, with at least 5,267 workers contracting COVID-19.

Using news reports, company press releases, state and federal data, MCIR also registered that 22 meatpacking workers have died from COVID-19 in Nebraska, and there have been outbreaks at 23 different facilities in the state.

Eric Reeder, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 293 in Nebraska, told WOWT TV that Gov. Ricketts was full of nonsense, and that in 30 years of working in the industry, he knows there are "absolutely undocumented workers working in all the plants. The statement that there are not is patently false." And just as you'd expect a crazy union guy would say, Reeder added that the real goal should be making the plants safe for all workers and the public by getting the entire workforce vaccinated.

This isn't political. This is simply a virus that if you don't put a stop to it or try to make these plants safer you're not going to keep up with the demand we already have. So if you want to keep them working you have to keep them as safe as possible.

Next we suppose he's going to say there's something wrong with supervisors betting on how many line workers will be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Mind you, it's just possible that some good could come of Ricketts's insistence that there aren't any undocumented workers in his state's meat processing plants. If he's going with the view that the plants simply don't hire anyone without papers, then perhaps that means all meatpacking workers in the state will be allowed to get the vaccine, without any further checks on their immigration status.

That's certainly what we'd argue if we were running a vaccination program, anyway. The governor said the workers are all legal, so everyone gets the shots, hooray!

[KNBN / Business Insider / WOWT / Image: Screenshot, Smithfield Foods video]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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