Massive ICE raid in Mississippi

Daily Dispatch 8/8/2019

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Daily Dispatch

August 8, 2019

Handcuffed female workers begin to climb into a bus for transportation to a processing center following a raid by U.S. immigration officials at a Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The early morning raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations department launched a series of raids at meat processing plants in Mississippi yesterday. The operation was apparently directed from the U.S. attorney’s office in Jackson, though what the warrants served were ultimately for is not clear. Business records were seized, as were 680 people on suspicion that they are unauthorized to work in the U.S. From NPR:

Federal immigration officials raided several food-processing plants in Mississippi on Wednesday and arrested approximately 680 people believed to be working in the U.S. without authorization.

The coordinated raids were conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations “at seven agricultural processing plants across Mississippi,” according to an ICE statement. In addition to the arrests, agents seized company business records.

The raids targeted five companies, operating seven facilities in six different towns. The plants raided include: Koch Foods Inc. in Morton; PH Food Inc., also in Morton; Peco Foods Inc. in Bay Springs, Canton and Sebastopol; MP Food Inc. in Pelahatchie, and Pearl River Foods Inc. in Carthage.

One of the immediate impacts of the raid, was, of course, families separated again. Local school districts were grappling with kids who had no parents to go home to. From the Clarion Ledger:

A Scott County child started kindergarten Tuesday. Wednesday, while the child was at school, their parent was arrested by federal agents, one of 680 people taken into custody after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted seven raids at food processing plants across Mississippi.

Superintendent Tony McGee said, as of Wednesday afternoon, he knew of at least six families within the district that had a parent caught up in the raids. The students range from kindergarten to high school.

McGee, who met with ICE officials after the raids, said he expected the number to increase. 

Timing? The raid came on the same day that President Trump visited El Paso in the wake of the weekend’s mass shooting/murder that killed 22 people and wounded 25 others. The shooter indicated that his goal was to shoot “as many Mexicans as possible.” At least six of those murdered were Mexican nationals; Mexico’s foreign ministered called the shooting an act of “barbarism.” With the connection being made between the murder and Trump’s rhetoric about immigration, one has to wonder why this massive enforcement operation was timed for the same day. 

Workplace raids increasing

[From the Daily Dispatch, Feb 28, 2019] The Trump administration has overseen a huge expansion of workplace immigration enforcement actions. From Maya Srikrishnan of Voice of San Diego:

In fiscal year 2018, Homeland Security Investigations opened 6,848 worksite investigations. That’s roughly a 305 percent increase from the year before, when 1,691 investigations were opened. I-9 audits – random checks the government does to ensure that employees have proper work authorization – have also increased. In 2018, the government conducted 5,981 audits, compared with 1,360 the year before. The agency made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests nationwide in fiscal year 2018, compared with 139 and 172 the year before. Administrative arrests are for non-criminal immigration violations.

Last year ICE engaged in some of the largest workplace raids in its history. A few examples:

In April, 97 people were arrested in a large operation in Morristown, Tennessee. Seven of the people detained that day have filed a suit against ICE.

In June, 146 people were arrested at Fresh Mark, a meat supplier in Salem, Ohio

Earlier in June, 114 people were arrested at a landscaping company in Castalia, Ohio

In August, 159 people were arrested in a raid at trailer manufacturer in Sumner, Texas

The number of workplace raids is up, but the practice is hardly new.

In 2006 ICE arrested 1,300 people in one day in a massive 6 state raid against Swift and Company meat packing plants. As part of the day’s operations they blocked all the roads out of Cactus, Texas the day of the raid, detaining 300 workers from the Swift and Company plant in that town.

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