ICE agents on Wednesday arrested 680 illegal workers during a raid on seven food processing plants in Mississippi.
The operation, which has been described as the ‘largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history,’ occurred on the same day President Trump visited El Paso, TX to speak with residents following a mass shooting whose perpetrator has been linked to an online rant about the “Hispanic invasion.”
“It was a sad situation inside,” said Domingo Candelaria, a legal employee at Koch Foods Inc.
Koch Foods is one of the nation’s largest poultry producers, employing roughly 13,000 people in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee.
“This will affect the economy,” argues Maria Isabel Ayala, a local babysitter. “Without them here, how will you get your chicken?”
During the raid, ICE agents demanded identification papers from all employees and searched through their personal items. Those deemed illegal had their wrists tied with plastic bands and were forced onto buses to be transported to a military facility where they will be processed for immigration violations.
Those who tried to flee were caught by agents that had formed a perimeter around the factories.
“While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that, first and foremost, we are a nation of laws,” said US Attorney Mike Hurst. “They have to come here legally or they shouldn’t come here at all.”
All foreign nationals arrested Wednesday will be interviewed to record any mitigating humanitarian situations, added the agency. “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.”
Raids of this scale (which were common under GW Bush) are designed not only to root out illegal workers and send them home, but also to punish the employers who knowingly hire them.
“To those who use illegal aliens for competitive advantage or to make a quick buck, we have something to say to you: If we find that you have violated federal criminal law, we’re coming after you,” said Hurst.
In July, the former owner of a meatpacking plant in Tennessee was sentenced to 18 months in prison based on the results of an ICE raid conducted in 2018.