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JONESBORO, Ark. – ICE agents are executing federal search warrants across the south seeking illegal immigrants at work at agriculture processing plants, including at three different Peco Foods plant located in Mississippi.
Seven warrants have been revealed thus far by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) division but ICE has not specifically named all locations which were raided.
Staff at the Pocahontas plant were spooked on Wednesday with some reporting seeing law enforcement at the gate and fearing the worst was coming. There are no confirmations of any actions there as of yet, but the Pocahontas plant is a processing plant – the same type of facility as three Peco plants which were raided on Wednesday in Mississippi.
Thus far, Peco Foods’ plant in Canton, Mississippi (about 35 miles north of Jackson) was raided. Also, a Peco Foods plant in Bay Springs, Mississippi being raided. A Peco Foods plant in Sebastopol was also raided.
Additionally, a Koch Foods plant in Morton, Mississippi was raided on Wednesday.
Agents said they had never participated in raids of such a large degree before, Fox News reports. A hanger at the Mississippi National Guard in Flowood was set up with 2,000 meals to process employees for immigration violations on Wednesday. There were seven lines – one for each location raided. About 600 agents were involved and about 680 suspected illegal immigrants were apprehended, the New York Times reports.
Most local officials appeared to be unaware of ICE’s plans until the operation was underway.
In a news release posted today (Wednesday, August 7), ICE said they were seizing business records and detaining unlawful foreign nationals.
All of the undocumented immigrants were being interviewed for mitigating humanitarian situations, the release said. All individuals detained were unlawfully working at the plants, according to ICE. Based on interviews, and consideration of their criminality and prior immigration history, ICE is determining who will be detained and who may be released from custody at present. In all cases, all the illegal aliens encountered as part of the operation are either being placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts, and for those who already received due process and have been ordered removed, processed for removal from the U.S.
A 24-hour toll-free hotline is available for family members of those arrested in this operation. This hotline operates in English and Spanish; the phone number is 1-855-479-0502.
This HSI-led operation was conducted in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, of which U.S. Attorney D. Michael Hurst Jr. will prosecute any resulting federal criminal charges.
HSI is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for upholding the laws established by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of individuals they hire. These laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and lawful U.S. residents, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that unlawfully hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security. – Press release