In what is in touted as the largest immigration raid in over a decade, nearly 600 ICE agents were deployed to various food processing plants in Mississippi to arrest and process undocumented immigrants who were working there.
Even as thousands of immigrants reportedly face deplorable conditions at the border detention centers, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been tightening its grip on cracking down illegal immigrants in the country. In what has shaped out to be the largest single-state worksite immigration raid in American history, ICE officials raided seven Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday and arrested 680 workers. The workers were mostly of Hispanic origin and did not have the verified documentation to work or live in the United States. Nearly 600 ICE agents were deployed to the food plants in Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie, and Sebastapol. They surrounded the perimeters to keep any workers from fleeing. A federal prosecutor has described the day's events as "the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation's history."
"If we really cared about an immigration system, and trying to find a way for people to come legally, why aren't we rounding up the owners of the factories that are knowingly hiring cheap labor?" -@DeeTwoCents on recent mass raid by ICE officials pic.twitter.com/04orymac3G— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) August 8, 2019
"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."
According to the officials, the raids were planned many months ago and were ordered directly by President Trump himself. “On a day when we seek unifying words and acts to heal the nation’s broken heart, President Trump allows so many families and communities to be torn apart,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
This ICE Raid in Mississippi has hurt my heart. Right when these babies are back in school 💔 imagine coming home from school only to discover a parent or both have been taken away or that the entire family is split up. Inhumane man.— BergsTheWord (@sweetS1NS8TION) August 7, 2019
In the city of Morton, which is about 40 miles from the capital of Jackson, the ICE agents made so many arrests at a Koch Foods Inc. plant that the undocumented workers filled up to three buses. Koch Foods is one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S. and employs about 13,000 people nationwide with plants in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Tennessee.
The ones who were arrested were taken to a military facility to be processed for immigration violations. As the workers were being taken away, nearly 70 family members, friends, and local residents despairingly waved the workers goodbye and even began to shout "Let them go! Let them go!". Two more buses arrived later to pick up even more undocumented immigrants who were working there.
"Government, please show some heart. Let my parent be free." https://t.co/nLHoDIJLNx— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 9, 2019
Workers who were confirmed to have legal status were allowed to leave the plant after having their trunks searched for any contraband. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot. AP even reported that "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."
ICE raided Koch Foods yesterday as part of the nation’s largest immigration enforcement operation in a decade. https://t.co/CO8cEw3POx— Anna Wolfe (@ayewolfe) August 8, 2019
All the unlawfully present foreign nationals arrested Wednesday are being interviewed by ICE staff to record any potential mitigating humanitarian situations," ICE said in a statement. "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.". "I've never done anything like this," Chris Heck, resident agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit in Jackson, told The Associated Press inside the hangar. "This is a very large worksite operation."
Trump’s administration massive immigration raid occurred on the same day he was meant to offer solace to victims of a tragic anti-Latino attack. Coincidence? https://t.co/KEWDI9NT1w— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 9, 2019
The last time an immigration-raid was authorized by the highest level in the federal government, it was during the second tenure of George W. Bush's Presidency. A large raid was organized at a kosher meatpacking plant in tiny Postville, Iowa back in 2008. The raid resulted in 400 arrests, mostly undocumented Guatemalan migrants. President Obama did not authorize any such high-profile raids and limited his administration's workplace-immigration checks to low-profile audits that were done outside of public view.
This isn't a coincidence. Many companies call ICE in for a raid as a form of collective punishment after the workers stand up for their rights.— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) August 8, 2019
ICE's reign of terror must end. Abolish it. Prosecute the leadership. https://t.co/L6PH4NSU0b
Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated this move by the ICE. Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, called the “terrible” raids “another effort to drive Latinos out of Mississippi,” and he blamed Trump for fanning racism with his past incendiary comments about immigrants. “This is the same thing that Trump is doing at the border with the Border Patrol,” he said, referring to the increased crackdown on migrants coming into the U.S.