WEATHER AUTHORITY : Freeze Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Largest US immigration raids in a decade net 680 arrests

MGN Online

Immigration officials raided several food processing plants in Mississippi, arresting 680 people.

Posted: Aug 8, 2019 1:09 PM

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 least a decade.

UPDATEDozens released after massive Mississippi immigration raids

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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 153270

Reported Deaths: 3807
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10249104
Hinds10095199
Harrison7173111
Jackson6440124
Rankin5705103
Lee517095
Madison4902107
Forrest385986
Jones361788
Lauderdale3567147
Lafayette329752
Washington3197108
Lamar294750
Oktibbeha248462
Bolivar242484
Lowndes240464
Panola224852
Neshoba2225118
Marshall219450
Leflore206891
Pontotoc202429
Monroe201078
Lincoln192865
Sunflower191955
Warren177757
Tate175351
Union169526
Copiah165440
Pike163958
Yazoo157940
Scott156630
Itawamba155635
Pearl River153468
Alcorn152828
Coahoma151043
Simpson150353
Prentiss148431
Adams143151
Grenada141445
Leake138344
Holmes131561
Tippah126730
George126225
Covington124639
Winston123726
Hancock122840
Wayne119023
Marion117346
Attala116134
Tishomingo110042
Chickasaw108332
Newton107529
Tallahatchie97427
Clarke92453
Clay92327
Jasper83522
Stone78515
Calhoun77713
Walthall76929
Montgomery75425
Carroll73815
Lawrence72614
Smith72116
Yalobusha72028
Noxubee71917
Perry67726
Tunica61819
Greene60822
Claiborne58816
Jefferson Davis57817
Amite55214
Humphreys54319
Benton49618
Quitman4947
Webster45014
Kemper44218
Wilkinson40122
Jefferson35711
Franklin3485
Choctaw3457
Sharkey31717
Issaquena1174
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 247229

Reported Deaths: 3577
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32718500
Mobile19904362
Madison13425148
Tuscaloosa13167154
Montgomery12380236
Shelby1046577
Baldwin882098
Lee778566
Morgan675150
Calhoun6366121
Etowah635166
Marshall630955
Houston532338
DeKalb489736
Cullman447442
Limestone430245
St. Clair425755
Lauderdale413354
Elmore409464
Walker3689111
Talladega353554
Jackson327123
Colbert314642
Blount294640
Autauga275142
Franklin254233
Coffee246515
Dale234454
Dallas226532
Chilton225038
Russell22313
Covington220334
Escambia198631
Chambers177250
Tallapoosa177091
Pike159214
Clarke158919
Marion141336
Winston134423
Lawrence129636
Pickens124218
Geneva12378
Marengo122524
Bibb118817
Barbour117511
Butler117342
Randolph103821
Cherokee102924
Hale97731
Fayette92216
Clay92024
Washington91619
Henry8676
Lowndes79929
Monroe79011
Cleburne77414
Macon74522
Crenshaw71230
Bullock70019
Perry6896
Conecuh68514
Lamar6838
Wilcox63918
Sumter58422
Greene42718
Choctaw42613
Coosa3464
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
36° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 31°
Columbus
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 25°
Oxford
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 26°
Starkville
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 26°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather