Members of the Surry County Tea Party Patriots were planning to protest today at Wayne Farms in Dobson, according to an organizer of the group, although it was unclear Thursday whether town officials would allow the gathering.
Wayne Farms is being targeted over Tea Party claims that the poultry company, Dobson’s largest employer, has a significant number of illegal immigrants on its payroll.
“The way the employment situation is, we can’t afford this anymore,” Lanelle Alsip of Siloam said of the notion that people who are here unlawfully are robbing Americans of jobs.
She invited the public to attend today’s protest, which tentatively was planned to begin outside the Wayne Farms facility on East Atkins Street at 10 a.m. “Bring a sign,” was her message to those interested in attending. The event was expected to last about two hours, pending approval from the town.
Alsip, who announced plans for the picketing effort on Thursday, described herself as an organizer of the Surry Tea Party Patriots. The group is an offshoot of the national Tea Party movement that seeks to control big-government spending and attack other problems such as illegal immigration.
The Surry group has steadily gained supporters since a July 5 march in Pilot Mountain which attracted hundreds of people.
Alsip said that what sparked today’s protest plans was a federal judge’s decision this week to block parts of Arizona’s immigration law. It calls for law enforcement officers to check the legal status of persons they encounter if there is a suspicion they are in the country unlawfully.
When asked why Wayne Farms is being targeted, Alsip referred to a television news report about a year ago. During that report, she claimed, a company official stated that “85 percent” of the operation’s workforce had been given a day off to attend a pro-immigration rally.
Alsip took that to mean Wayne Farms hires illegals, but said she had no hard evidence to back up that allegation.
In response to the Tea Party charges, an official of Wayne Farms defended the company’s employment record Thursday.
“As far as how we hire people and what have you, we’re actually known throughout the industry for our stance on verification,” said Paul Nordin, complex manager for the Dobson operation. “We were one of the first companies to volunteer to participate in the federal government’s E-Verify program.”
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
When asked if such efforts mean Wayne Farms has no illegal immigrants on its payroll, Nordin replied, “What I’m saying is we take every precaution to hire people that’s legal.” This includes using “all” tools and resources available to check immigration status, he said.
Meanwhile, a question arose Thursday concerning whether a permit from the town was needed for today’s protest, and if one would be granted if required.
Dobson Police Chief Shawn Myers could not be reached for comment Thursday about the permit and if he foresaw any problem with one being approved for the Tea Party members. When the question was posed to another officer at the police department, he said he would explore the matter and try to come up with an answer.
“I checked with the town manager, and it does require a permit,” that officer reported later regarding the planned protest. “She’ll need to talk to the chief in the morning,” he said of the Tea Party organizer.
Alsip said Tea Party members planned to be outside Wayne Farms regardless of the uncertainties about the permit.
“I am going to go,” she said.
Contact Tom Joyce at email@example.com or at 719-1924.