United States immigration officials have raided numerous MS food processing plants and arrested 680 people, mostly Latino workers, in the largest workplace sting in at least a decade.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew Albence testifies before the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee on Capitol Hill July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC.
On Wednesday, about 600 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents fanned out across plants operated by five companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing. Last year, the administration hit a landscaping company near Toledo, Ohio, and a meatpacking plant in eastern Tennessee.
U.S. immigration officials have arrested nearly 700 people after a series of raids in the state of Mississippi.
"Today, at seven sites in six different cities around the southern district of Mississippi, HSI Special Agents executed administrative and criminal search warrants resulting in the detention of approximately 680 illegal aliens", Hurst said.
The ICE officials stepped up worksite enforcement since President Donald Trump took office, and had been conducting large-scale raids at food-processing plants and gardening centers. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the operation were not intended for publication.
ICE officials said the investigation into the illegal aliens and their employers is ongoing and could not comment on specifics of the case.
The companies who hired illegal workers will be scrutinized for tax, document and wage fraud, Albence said.
A few workers tried to flee on foot but were captured from the factory premises. "But the thing that they (ICE) did is devastating", she said.
The arrested were taken to a military hangar for questioning on immigration violations.
Two people are taken into custody at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday.
A tearful 13-year-old boy was seen waving at his worker mother, as he stood beside his father.
Such large shows of force were common under President George W. Bush, most notably at a kosher meatpacking plant in tiny Postville, Iowa, in 2008. The former owner of the Tennessee plant was sentenced to 18 months in prison last month. Barack Obama avoided them, limiting his workplace immigration efforts to low-profile audits that were done outside of public view.
The Rev. Mike O'Brien, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Canton, said he waited outside the Peco Foods plant in the city until 4 a.m. Thursday for workers returning by bus. The company, based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says it is the eighth-largest poultry producer in the U.S. "It is especially sickening that days after immigrants were targeted by a gunman in El Paso, Texas, workers at plants across MS witnessed armed agents descending on their workplace".
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