MORTON, Miss. (AP) — U.S. immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 mostly Latino workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at…
The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit El Paso, Texas, the majority-Latino city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead in the border city.
Workers filled three buses — two for men and one for women — at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in tiny Morton, 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Jackson. They were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations. About 70 family, friends and residents waved goodbye and shouted, “Let them go! Let them go!” Later, two more buses arrived.
A tearful 13-year-old boy whose parents are from Guatemala waved goodbye to his mother, a Koch worker, as he stood beside his father. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot.
Workers who were confirmed to have legal status were allowed to leave the plant after having their trunks searched.
“It was a sad situation inside,” said Domingo Candelaria, a legal resident and Koch worker who said authorities checked employees’ identification documents.
The company did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
About 600 agents fanned out across the plants involving several companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing. They occurred in small towns near Jackson with a workforce made up largely of Latino immigrants, including Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie and Sebastapol.
Matthew Albence, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director, told The Associated Press that the raids could be the largest such operation thus far in any single state.
Asked to comment on the fact that the raid was happening on the same day as Trump’s El Paso visit, Albence responded, “This is a long-term operation that’s been going on. Our enforcement operations are being done on a racially neutral basis. Investigations are based on evidence.”
The sting was another demonstration of Trump’s signature domestic priority to crack down on illegal immigration. While planned months ago, it coincided with the day that Trump was to visit El Paso to offer his condolences to the majority-Latino city after a gunman linked with an anti-Hispanic post online fatally shot 22 people on Saturday.
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. President Barack Obama avoided them, limiting his workplace immigration efforts to low-profile audits that were done outside of public view.
Trump resumed workplace raids, but the months of preparation and hefty resources they require make them rare. Last year, the administration hit a landscaping company near Toledo, Ohio, and a meatpacking plant in eastern Tennessee. The former owner of the Tennessee plant was sentenced to 18 months in prison last month.
A hangar at the Mississippi National Guard in Flowood, near Jackson, was set up with 2,000 meals to process employees for immigration violations on Wednesday. There were seven lines, one for each location that was hit. Buses had been lined up since early in the day to be dispatched to the plants.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” Chris Heck, resident agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Jackson, told The Associated Press inside the hangar. “This is a very large worksite operation.”
Koch Foods, based in Park Ridge, Illinois, is one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S. and employs about 13,000 people, with operations in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee.
Forbes ranks it as the 135th largest privately held company in the U.S., with an estimated $3.2 billion in annual revenue. The Morton plant produces more than 700,000 tons of poultry feed a year, company officials said in February. The company has no relation to prominent conservative political donors and activists Charles and David Koch.
Agents arrived at the Morton plant, passing a chain-link fence with barbed wire on top, with a sign that said the company was hiring. Mike Hurst, the U.S. attorney for Mississippi, was at the scene.
Workers had their wrists tied with plastic bands and were told to deposit personal belongings in clear plastic bags. Agents collected the bags before they boarded buses.
“This will affect the economy,” Maria Isabel Ayala, a child care worker for plant employees, said as the buses left. “Without them here, how will you get your chicken?”
Immigration agents also hit a Peco Foods Inc. plant in Canton, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Jackson. The company, based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says it is the eighth-largest poultry producer in the U.S. A company representative did not immediately respond to a telephone call or email seeking comment.
Amy reported from Pearl, Mississippi. Associated Press reporter Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
(CNN) – US immigration authorities have detained more than 680 undocumented immigrants in what a federal prosecutor described as “what is believed to be the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history.”
US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst told reporters the arrests took place at seven sites in six different cities in Mississippi on Wednesday. “Today, as a result of the hard work of these men and women in law enforcement, we’ve set another record,” Hurst said.
The arrests came as a result of administrative and criminal search warrants executed by special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, Hurst said.
“Today, through the hard work of these men and women, we are once again becoming a nation of laws,” he said.
Developing story – more to come
CNN’s Sheena Jones and Jeremy Grisham contributed to this report.
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41 arrested in New York-area ICE operation targeting criminal aliens, illegal re- entrants, and immigration fugitives
• A total of 41 foreign nationals were arrested this week in the five boroughs of New York City and the surrounding areas during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens.
• The vast majority — 38 of those arrested — had criminal convictions.
• Arrests included:
• A citizen of El Salvador with a criminal conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and self-admitted MS-13 gang member.
• A citizen of Jamaica with a criminal conviction for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11.
• A citizen of Mexico with a criminal convicted for first degree sexual assault of a victim under the age of 11.
• The stats cover the entirety of the agency’s fugitive operations arrests in New York City and surrounding areas from Monday through Friday.
• This week’s enforcement operations were conducted in accordance with routine, daily targeted operations conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fugitive operations teams every day to arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of our nation’s immigration laws.
• ICE deportation officers conduct targeted enforcement operations every day in locations around the country as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.
• These are existing, established fugitive operations teams. ICE does not conduct sweeps, checkpoints or raids that target aliens indiscriminately.
• This operation targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, and individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who re-entered the country after being deported and immigration fugitives ordered deported by federal immigration judges.
• Some of the individuals arrested during this operation will face criminal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for illegal re-entry after deportation.
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U.S. Department of Homeland Security
• Those not being criminally prosecuted will be processed for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to removal from the country.
• Reports of ICE checkpoints and sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible. These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger. Any groups falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.
• During targeted enforcement operations ICE officers frequently encounter additional suspects who may be in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. Those persons will be evaluated on a case by case basis and, when appropriate, arrested by ICE.
# ICE #
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit: www.ICE.gov. To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423.