Gibson County Mayor ‘Welcoming Witherspoon’ Defends Tyson Foods Plant Using Rhetoric From Open Immigration Organizations

By Chris Alto   |   The Tennessee Star

The announcement in November that Humboldt, Tennessee is getting the Tyson Foods plant that was rejected by citizens in Tonganoxie, Kansas, raises legitimate questions about whether the new plant will attract refugee workers to the area.

In their press release, Tyson Foods said the company had “accepted the invitation of city, county and state leaders to build a new chicken production complex in the City of Humboldt, which is part of Gibson County in western Tennessee,” and included words of praise from Humboldt Mayor Mavin Sikes, Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, a Democrat who has endorsed Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and Gov. Bill Haslam:

“This is an historic day for Humboldt, Gibson County and West Tennessee,” Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes said. “I want to thank Tyson Foods for their commitment to our community and region. The significant job creation and capital investment that will result from this project will have a positive impact on our community that will last for many years, and I could not be more excited about the future of Humboldt and Gibson County.”

“Many years of dedicated work from countless Gibson County citizens and volunteers have laid the foundation for the arrival of this day,” Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon said. “There is not a doubt in my mind that Tyson Foods’ tremendous job creation and capital investment will have a long lasting, positive impact in Gibson County that will ring in a new era of economic growth bringing opportunity for all of our citizens.” . . .

“I want to thank Tyson Foods for choosing Humboldt as the location for its new operations and for creating more than 1,500 new jobs in Gibson County,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “The new facility will be Tyson’s fifth location in Tennessee and it means a great deal that a company of this magnitude will continue to grow its footprint in our state. I appreciate Tyson for its continued commitment to Tennessee and for helping us become one step closer to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Including Union City, the company currently operates four facilities in the state, employing about 5,000 with an annual payroll of more than $181 million,” the Tyson Foods statement continued.

One of those four facilities is located in Shelbyville, Tennessee, a small Tennessee community that offers a troubling case study of just what kind of an impact the arrival of refugees who work at a local food processing facility can have on a community.

Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, a champion of the new Tyson Foods plant in Humboldt, recently defended the plan by demonizing those who posed legitimate questions based on the experience of countless cities and towns across the country who have become home to new food plants and seen an inflow of refugee workers. It is a tactic popularized by groups like Welcoming Tennessee and the larger Welcoming America network.

Echoing the leftist theme of “fear of immigrant newcomers,” “Welcoming Witherspoon” told his hometown paper:

If we allow ourselves to run our country or our county based on fear of others or fear of the unknown, we are going to fall.

Nationally networked Welcoming America (WA) grew out of Welcoming Tennessee, an initiative launched in 2005 by the Nashville-based TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). TIRRC and the WA initiative received funding from George Soros foundations.

Among the accomplishments listed on its website, Welcoming Tennessee takes credit for helping to produce  “Welcome to Shelbyville,”‘ a film they describe as documenting Welcoming Tennessee’s “positive impact on the Shelbyville community.”

The New York Times, however, categorized the film as propaganda.

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