LARGEST WORKPLACE IMMIGRATION RAIDS IN AT LEAST A DECADE RESULT IN 680 ARRESTS

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

The Trump administration has proposed many new anti-immigration policies against undocumented immigrants in the United States.  However, a traditional approach to limit undocumented immigrants in the United States is to conduct a raid of a business where undocumented immigrants are known to be working and arrest them.  The Trump administration is also willing to use this traditional method of restricting undocumented immigrants in the United States, as on August 7, the largest workplace immigration raids in the United States in at least a decade resulted in 680 arrests.

These workplace immigration raids (which were planned months ago) were conducted at 7 Mississippi chicken processing plants by approximately 600 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.  The plants are owned by 5 companies – Koch Foods Inc. (the 135th largest privately held company in the United States), Peco Foods Inc. (the 8th largest poultry producer in the United States), PH Food Inc., MP Food Inc., and Pearl River Foods Inc.

Workers who could not show that they were in the country legally were arrested (workers who could show that they were in the country legally were allowed to leave their plants after ICE agents searched the trunks of their vehicles) and taken to a military hangar at a Mississippi Air National Guard base in Flowood, Mississippi, to be processed for immigration violations.

Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting director, stated that these Mississippi workplace immigration raids could be the largest workplace immigration raids in a single state ever.  Albence also commented that the chicken processing companies involved in the raids could be charged with knowingly hiring workers who are illegally in the country and possibly tax, document and wage fraud. 

Workplace immigration raids were common during the administration of President George W. Bush, including one 2008 raid at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, which resulted in approximately 400 arrests.  The administration of President Barack Obama generally avoided workplace immigration raids, focusing instead on low-profile workplace audits. For President Trump, these Mississippi workplace immigration raids continue his resumption of workplace immigration raids, including last year targeting a landscape 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), and this year targeting a technology repair company near Dallas, Texas.           

Maria Isabel Ayala, a child care worker for plant employees, stated, “This will affect the economy . . . Without them here, how will you get your chicken?”.  Chicken processing work is a tough job, often performed by undocumented immigrants.

Julia Solorzano, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, criticized these workplace immigration raids, stating in an email, “Today’s raids are part of the ongoing war against immigrant families and the communities in which they live . . . It is especially sickening that days after immigrants were targeted by a gunman in El Paso, Texas, workers at plants across Mississippi witnessed armed agents descending on their workplace.  It’s also worth noting that immigration agencies that have repeatedly blamed ‘over capacity’ detention facilities for the horrific treatment of those imprisoned nevertheless detained more than 600 people today”.

Arrest and potential deportation is probably the most significant adverse consequence that immigrants and their families in the United States face.  With the resumption of workplace immigration raids by the Trump administration, the risk of arrest and potential deportation for immigrants is increased.  The Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has successfully represented immigrants for many years, can help immigrants and their families deal with the issues of arrest and potential deportation.  If you need assistance in responding to any arrest or deportation situation, or with any other immigration issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for representation.