Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face: The Real Consequences of I-9 Audits Considered through a Case Study of Brewster, Washington

Gregory C. Cunningham


The phrase “cutting off one’s nose to spite the face” has many meanings, most of them violent and, historically, sometimes literal. In our times, its meaning is colloquial and suggests a needless, disproportionate, and self-destructive response to a perceived threat. This strangely violent phrase aptly describes what is happening in small agricultural communities across the country. One such community is Brewster, Washington, where Immi- gration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out I-9 audit of Gebbers Farms, Brewster’s major employer, in December of 2009. After presenting the Gebbers Farms case, I discuss what this example from one small town in North Central Washington reveals about the workings of immigration law and law enforcement in, and upon, small agricultural communities today.

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