Wednesday, hours before President Donald Trump landed in El Paso to mourn the 22 people shot and killed at Walmart over the weekend, hundreds of ICE agents raided 7 separate food processing plants along the southern border of Mississippi, arresting approximately 680 “removable aliens”.
Search warrants were executed on seven plants in 6 cities in and around Jackson, Mississippi, including the Koch Foods Inc., poultry producer located in Morton. ICE agents also raided Pearl River Foods Inc., in Carthage, MP Food Inc. in Pelahatchie; PH Food Inc. in Morton; and Peco Foods Inc., with plants in Bay Springs, Canton and Sebastopol.
Seven lines – one for each location hit – were set up in a hangar at the Mississippi National Guard in Flowood, close to Jackson where 2,000 meals were served while processing the employees for immigration violations, according to Fox News. The lines included document printers at each interview station and fingerprint scanners.
Workers found to be in the country illegally had their wrists zipped tied, were told to drop all personal belongings in clear plastic bags, and were then sat on 3 buses – 2 for men and one for women – at the Koch Foods Inc. plant. Two additional buses arrived later on to transport the remaining workers.
According to the Associated Press, the operation was the largest conducted in America in at least the last decade. One federal prosecutor reportedly described the coordinate raids as “the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history.”
“All the unlawfully present foreign nationals arrested Wednesday are being interviewed by ICE staff to record any potential mitigating humanitarian situations. Based on these interviews, and consideration of their criminality and prior immigration history, ICE is determining on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of the circumstances which individuals will be detained and which persons may be released from custody at present, the agency said in a press release on Wednesday. “In all cases, all the illegal aliens encountered as part of this operation are either being placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts, and for those who already received due process and have been ordered removed, processed for removal from the U.S.”
Though some workers at the plants tried to flee on foot, they were quickly captured in the parking lot. Workers that were processed and found to be in the country legally were allowed to leave the site after the trunks of their cars were searched.
“This is a long-term operation that’s been going on,” ICE’s acting director Matthew Albence told The Associated Press during an interview on Wednesday. Albence added that the raids are “racially neutral” and based solely on evidence of illegal residency.
Albence also told AP that the companies involved in the raids could be charged with “knowingly hiring workers who are in the county illegally and will be scrutinized for tax, document and wage fraud.”
“The execution of federal search warrants today was simply about enforcing the rule of law in our state and throughout our great country,” U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a statement. ” I commend these federal agents, our state and local law enforcement partners, and our federal prosecutors for their professionalism and dedication to ensure that those who violate our laws are held accountable.”
Following the raids current Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi and candidate for Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, posted the following statement on Twitter: