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In Its Biggest Sting in a Decade, ICE Arrests 680 Mississippi Food Workers

Critics say the ICE raid was triggered by an investigation into the sexual harassment of employees

A group of men with vests that read “POLICE Federal Agent” raiding a worksite
ICE executes federal search warrants at multiple Mississippi locations

Yesterday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out its largest workplace sting in a decade. Around 600 agents descended on seven food processing plants in Mississippi and arrested 680 suspected undocumented workers. The arrests were part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented workers (though Trump himself employs, and mistreats, plenty of them), and a symptom of racist, white supremacist ideologies.

Those arrested were largely Latinx immigrants. The businesses targeted included a poultry processing plant for Koch Foods Inc., which recently settled a sexual harassment suit brought against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $3.5 million. The suit alleged “that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.” Immigrant rights activists suspect that the sexual harassment investigation made the plants a target for ICE, increasingly the likelihood that harassed workers in other plants won’t speak up about bad treatment out of fear of ICE retribution.

“This is a high-profile way to send a message and to create more fear in immigrant communities about ICE and about their ability to live and work in this country,” John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE under the Obama administration, told BuzzFeed News.

Undocumented food workers under arrest do have legal rights to stay silent, speak to a lawyer, and can decline to have their fingerprints scanned unless they’re directly named in a warrant. But it’s often hard to get this information to workers, and ICE has a history of intimidating and outright lying to people about what they’re legally entitled to. But overall, fears that American citizens and legal residents are being screwed out of jobs by undocumented workers are unfounded. Agriculture and food service rely on undocumented workers in part because citizens don’t want the jobs.

The bottom line is if you like to eat, you should care about America’s immigration policy. And oppose ICE raids that only serve to terrorize people.

  • Mississippi immigration raids net 680 arrests [AP]
  • ICE Raids Miss. Plant After $3.5 Million Sexual Harassment Settlement [Payday Report]
  • Families “Are Scared To Death” After A Massive ICE Operation Swept Up Hundreds Of People [BuzzFeed News]
  • If You Care About Food, You Need to Care About Immigration Policy [E]
  • How Immigration Raids Destroy the Lives of Food Workers [E]

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