U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations raided Koch Foods’ food processing plants in Mississippi arresting 680 people, the majority of them Hispanic.
“All the unlawfully present foreign nationals arrested Wednesday are being interviewed by ICE staff to record any potential mitigating humanitarian situations,” read an ICE statement. “Based on these interviews, and consideration of their criminality and prior immigration history, ICE is determining on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of the circumstances which individuals will be detained and which persons may be released from custody at present.”
The raids occurred shortly after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas that targeted Hispanics.
“HSI’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices,” read ICE’s statement. “Worksite enforcement investigations often involve additional criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, document fraud, worker exploitation and/or substandard wage and working conditions.”
On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said that the raid was long-planned, but “the timing was unfortunate” regarding the mass shooting.
32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg thinks the timing was perfect for the Trump administration.
“For over a dozen years, administrations both Republican and Democratic have refrained from these massive militarized assaults on workplaces, knowing that the damage they wreak to residents of American soil is simply indefensible,” said Bragg in a statement. “All workers—Black, Brown, white—deserve to be treated with dignity in the workplace, and the wellbeing of their children and communities should always be a top priority for government.
“By arresting almost 700 men and women at their jobs, the administration has ripped apart families, communities and local economies, traumatizing thousands upon thousands of native and foreign-born residents alike, while further terrorizing immigrants of all statuses across the country,” continued Bragg.
Koch Foods workers had complained of mistreatment on the job, but were afraid to say something out of fear of being deported. Under the Barack Obama administration, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission looked into the working conditions, the workers sued Koch Foods and the company eventually settled paying a $3.75 million penalty and promising to implement anti-discrimination measures.
Koch Food CEO Joseph Grendys’ net worth, as estimated by Forbes in February 2018, is $2.9 billion. Former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill wondered aloud why Grendys isn’t seeing repercussions from hiring undocumented workers.
“When 600 agents were making a show of arresting 680 undocumented immigrants working at Mississippi processing plants, did anyone bother to arrest the employers? Or did they leave them undisturbed in the back room counting their money?” asked McCaskill on Twitter.
Koch Foods looks to have moved on. On Monday morning, more than 100 workers attended a job fair in Forest, Miss. to apply to positions at Koch made available, to a degree, by the recent ICE raids. The poultry industry is one of the biggest contributors to the state’s economy.
Bragg believes that the Trump administration counts the pain of working people as a political gain.
“The timing of the raids also adds reprehensible insults to this grievous injury, coming months after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won a lawsuit in support of abused Latinx workers, and on the very day that President Trump travelled to El Paso in the wake of a white supremacist terror attack that was apparently emboldened by Trump’s hateful words and deeds,” stated Bragg.
“We offer our deepest condolences to all those affected by these raids, and our solidarity to all those committed to defeating this rogue and racist administration through action in the courts, votes at the polls, and voices in the streets,” concluded Bragg.