Three Hundred Arrests at Poultry Plant

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA - Special agents have executed a federal criminal search warrant at the Columbia Farms poultry processing plant belonging to House of Raeford as part of an ongoing investigation into employment practices.
calendar icon 8 October 2008
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The US Department of Justice reports that investigation has already resulted in criminal charges against 11 supervisors and one human resources manager. The announcement was made by ICE Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Investigations in Atlanta, Kenneth A. Smith, and W. Walter Wilkins, US Attorney for the District of South Carolina.

Agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are searching for evidence relating to the unauthorized employment of illegal aliens and other crimes. The enforcement action continues; however, thus far agents have administratively arrested approximately 300 illegal aliens.

Mr Wilkins stated, "Our office is charged with enforcing the immigration laws against aliens who illegally enter our country, and those who illegally harbor and employ them. The execution of this search warrant today marks an important phase of this ongoing investigation into the hiring practices of this employer. Aggressive enforcement and investigative actions are vital to the integrity of our immigration system."

"Today's enforcement operation is the latest step in a comprehensive criminal investigation focused on identifying the individuals involved in allowing unauthorized workers to gain employment," said Smith. "ICE targets employers because the promise of employment draws illegal workers across our borders. By holding employers accountable, we are diminishing the magnet and discouraging others from breaking the law."

All of those administratively arrested will be interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed by ICE agents and processed for removal from the United States. Everyone encountered will be medically screened and interviewed by a Public Health Service officer to determine if they have any medical, caregiver or other humanitarian concerns. As a result of these screenings, ICE will identify individuals eligible for humanitarian release. So far, approximately 58 of the individuals arrested today have been identified as being eligible for an alternative to detention based on humanitarian reasons. These individuals will still be required to appear before a federal immigration judge who will ultimately determine whether or not they will be deported. Any juveniles found to be in the country illegally who cannot be released to the custody of a trusted adult will be transferred into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

ICE has contacted local consular officials, community groups and the local school district to ensure they have accurate information regarding the operation. ICE has also established a toll-free number for family members to find out more information about the detention status of those arrested. Family members may call: 1-866-341-3858.

ICE agents will refer cases to the U.S. Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution upon identifying individuals who are in possession of stolen or unauthorized identification information, have previously been deported following a criminal felony conviction, or appear to be involved in other criminal activity. Any individuals identified as proper candidates for criminal prosecution will be remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The operation today follows the criminal cases filed earlier this year against 12 plant supervisory employees. In June, arrest warrants were issued for 11 supervisors at the plant, alleging that the men, all of Mexico, were illegally in the country, and were engaged in aggravated identity theft and the making of false statements to ICE authorities. Of the 11 charged, seven have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing, and two others are awaiting trial. Two supervisors were also charged with the same offenses but have not been arrested and are considered fugitives.

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