ICE agents arrest 680 undocumented workers in Mississippi

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on Wednesday arrested roughly 680 undocumented immigrants at seven Mississippi poultry processing facilities.

An ICE spokesman confirmed the raids to The Hill, saying it was part of a coordinated operation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

“In what is believed to be the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history, today at seven sites… ICE HSI (Homeland Security Investigation) special agents executed administrative and criminal search warrants resulting in the detention of approximately 680 illegal aliens,” Mike Hurst, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said Wednesday afternoon.

“The arrests today were part of a year-long investigation,” ICE Acting Director Matt Albence added.

{mosads}Detained employees at a Koch Foods plant in Morton, Miss., 40 miles east of Jackson, were boarded on three buses and taken to the Mississippi National Guard base in Flowood, Miss., for processing, according to The Associated Press.

It said agents searched the plant, asking employees for identification. Those who could not prove their legal residence were detained, while those with papers had their lockers searched and were released.

Poultry processing relies heavily on immigrant labor to clean, cut and package chicken parts for consumption.

Activists and labor unions have long accused the poultry industry of abusing undocumented workers who can’t appeal to the federal government for protection.

Koch Foods, the Illinois-based company that operates some of the raided plants, did not immediately return a request for comment. Koch Foods is not connected to billionaire mega-donor Charles Koch.

The Mississippi raids follow a large-scale raid last year in Ohio, where a large landscaping company was investigated by ICE.

President Trump vowed in June to deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants from the interior of the country, as immigration detention centers exceeded their capacity, packed with asylum-seeking detainees from the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Trump administration has threatened generalized, large-scale workplace raids, but has mostly focused its interior deportation assets on undocumented immigrants with pending orders of deportation.

It is unclear what criminal activity prompted the federal criminal warrant and the participation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office; immigration violations are for the most part civil law violations and not subject to criminal warrants.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are executing federal search warrants today at multiple locations across the state of Mississippi as part of a coordinated operation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi pursuant to ongoing HSI criminal and administrative investigations,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in an email.

– This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. with additional details from federal authorities

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