Sold For Parts

May 1, 2017
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BY LATE AFTERNOON, the smell from the Case Farms chicken plant in Canton, Ohio, is like a pungent fog, drifting over a highway lined with dollar stores and auto parts shops. When the stink is at its ripest, it means that the day’s 180,000 chickens have been slaughtered, drained of blood, stripped of feathers and carved into pieces — and it’s time for workers like Osiel López Pérez to clean up. On April 7, 2015, Osiel put on bulky rubber boots and a white hard hat, and trained a pressurized hose on the plant’s stainless steel machines, blasting off the leftover grease, meat and blood.

A Guatemalan immigrant, Osiel was just weeks past his 17th birthday, too young by law to work in a factory. A year earlier, after gang members shot his mother and tried to kidnap his sisters, he left his home, in the mountainous village of Tectitán, and sought asylum in the United States. He got the job at Case Farms with a driver’s license that said his name was Francisco Sepulveda, age 28. The photograph on the ID was of his older brother, who looked nothing like him, but nobody asked any questions.

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Image: By Maqi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7991617

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