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Largest US Immigration Operation in a Decade Nets 680 Arrests

United States immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at least a decade. As reported by USA Today, the raids were planned months ago, and the largest took place at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, 40 miles east of Jackson. Workers who were confirmed to have legal status were allowed to leave the plant. Other linked operations were executed in Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Pelahatchie, and Sebastapol Mississippi.

Article first published at Numbers USA on Thu, Aug 8th 2019 @ 9:20 am EDT.

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. When Acting Director Albence was 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 one of the most blatant demonstrations of Trump’s signature domestic priority to crack down on illegal immigration, and one of his first notable actions to crack-down on illegal hiring, one of the most prominent incentives to illegally enter the United States. “HSI’s [Homeland Security Investigations] worksite enforcement efforts are equally focused on aliens who unlawfully seek work in the U.S. as well as the employers who knowingly hire them,” HSI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge, Jere Miles said in a statement. Many are speculating that these ICE operations are part of the promised operations that were hinted at last month but suspended after President Trump gave House Democrats two weeks to produce legislative action to stem the crisis at the southern border as well as the loopholes of the current U.S. asylum policy.

According to federal officials, some of the hundreds of illegal aliens arrested on Wednesday have already been given orders of removal by an immigration judge and have refused to self-deport. Those illegal aliens will be quickly removed. Other illegal aliens have yet to go through the immigration courts and will be afforded a review process where they will make a case to remain in the U.S.

Such large shows of immigration enforcement were common under President George W. Bush, most notably at a kosher meatpacking plant in tiny Postville, Iowa, in 2008, the largest immigration operation before President Trump's most recent operation in Mississippi, netting 595 arrests. President Barack Obama avoided them, limiting his workplace immigration efforts to low-profile audits that were done outside of public view. President 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.

In preparation for the arrests, 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 company has no relation to prominent conservative political donors and activists Charles and David Koch.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst, who was present at the facilities, told the media at a press conference:

We are first and foremost a nation of laws and the Rule of Law is the bedrock, the very foundation, of our great country. I heard someone say that a country without borders is not a country at all and while I agree with that, I would also add that without law there is no order. Without the enforcement of law, there is no justice.