MORTON, Miss. — Juan Grant strode into the Koch Foods chicken processing plant for his new job on a Wednesday morning, joining many other African-Americans in a procession of rubber boots, hairnets and last cigarettes before the grind.
At 20, Mr. Grant was too young to remember the days of a nearly all-white work force in Mississippi’s poultry industry, or the civil rights boycotts and protests that followed. He was too young to have seen how white workers largely moved on after that, leaving the business of killing, cutting and packing to African-Americans.
He did not know the time before Hispanic workers began arriving in the heart of chicken country by the thousands, recruited by plant managers looking to fill low-paying jobs in an expanding industry.
But Mr. Grant clearly remembered Aug. 7, the day the Trump administration performed sweeping immigration raids on seven chicken plants in central Mississippi. He remembered the news flashing on his phone: 680 Hispanic workers arrested. He remembers seeing an opportunity.
“I figured there should be some jobs,” he said.
He figured right.
The raids were believed to be the largest statewide immigration crackdown in recent history and a partial fulfillment of President Trump’s vow to remove millions of undocumented workers from the country. The impact on Mississippi’s immigrant community has been devastating. For nonimmigrant workers, the aftermath has forced them into a personal reckoning with questions of morality and economic self-interest: The raids brought suffering, but they also created job openings.