“In some instances, immigrants were released from detention and outfitted with ankle monitors while awaiting deportation proceedings. Authorities tracking their GPS coordinates were able to see they were coming and going from Mississippi food processing plants.”
Over more than a decade, hundreds of undocumented workers across the country told federal officials they worked at food processing plants in Mississippi.
In some instances, immigrants were released from detention and outfitted with ankle monitors while awaiting deportation proceedings. Authorities tracking their GPS coordinates were able to see they were coming and going from Mississippi food processing plants.
On Wednesday, hundreds of immigration officials descended on seven Mississippi plants owned by five companies — Peco Foods, Koch Foods, PH Food, Pearl River Foods and MP Food Inc. They are suspected of “willfully and unlawfully employing” undocumented workers, recently unsealed search warrants say.
Workers reported hearing the roar of helicopters and seeing agents round up mostly Latino workers for questioning. Many wept as they waved goodbye to their family and friends being carted away on buses for processing.
It was the largest immigration sting of its kind in more than a decade. A total of 680 people were arrested. Of those, about 300 were released the same day, officials said. Those who remain in detention are being held in a ICE facility in Louisiana.
As for the companies, no fines or arrests have taken place, though federal officials say investigations into the companies are ongoing.
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What did federal authorities know? How long have they been monitoring these companies?
Unsealed court records provide the first look into how federal authorities planned what officials have described as the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in the country, ever.
ICE filed for search warrants Monday at the seven plants. The records had been sealed until U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson approved a motion Thursday to open them.
Affidavits by ICE Special Agent Anthony Williams Jr. revealed that, for years, temporarily detained undocumented workers — from as far as El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona — had employment cards from plants in Mississippi. He also said electronic ankle monitoring, surveillance and a confidential informant played a part in where raids would be targeted. More from the Clarion Ledger here.