logo

Plastics company CEO speaks out on immigration reform

By: Don Loepp

August 11, 2014

Kevin Kelly, CEO of flexible packaging company Emerald Packaging Inc., has written a powerful story for the National Catholic Reporter about the need for immigration reform in the United States, and the impact of the current system on employers and workers.

Immigration raids harm immigrants, employers is a depressing story that uses Kelly's personal experiences to give readers a real-life look at the issue. 

He writes about how about two years ago, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency conducted a "silent raid" on Emerald's headquarters in Union City, Calif. After a three-week audit, the company lost 18 workers, who Kelly describs as "some of our longest-tenured employees, the best machinists and operators," of the company's 200-strong work force.

The impact on the workers? Some lost their homes to foreclosure. They and their families suffered from anxiety and depression — including one who "turned out to be a citizen whose status had been confused by the movement of his family back and forth across the border and improper record-keeping by our government."

Losing trusted employees had an impact on Kelly and Emerald Packaging, too.

I highly recommend Kelly's story, and a related post for the Musings of a CEO blog — even for readers who dislike political topics, or who disagree with this take on the immigration reform debate. 

For anyone who isn't familiar with Kelly and Emerald Packaging, I recommend reading Roger Renstrom's story in Plastics News last year about the 2013 Leo Shluker award winner, "Emerald's Kelly carries on family tradition, wins Leo Shluker award," or these more recent stories about expansion projects at the company, "Emerald testing new HP digital press" and "Emerald Packaging adding pouch making and digital printing."

And for company managers who may think that the E-Verify system has them covered in the case of the silent raid, like the one that Kelly experienced, our Washington-based reporter Gayle S. Putrich suggested that I share information about some alternatives that employers can pursue, including H-2B Certification for Temporary Non-Agricultural Work and Permanent Labor Certification.