Almost 100 people were arrested Thursday after federal authorities raided a Tennessee meat processing plant, The Washington Post reported.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested 10 people on federal immigration charges and one person on state charges, said ICE spokeswoman Tammy Spicer. She said 86 immigrants were held on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally.
Of the 86 detained, 32 were released after deportation proceedings while 54 were kept in detention, Spicer said, according to ABC.
The National Immigration Law Center claimed the raid was the largest single raid since the administration of former President George W. Bush. ICE officials would not confirm that statement.
An affidavit filed by IRS Criminal Investigation Agent Nicholas R. Worsham said that the plant has hired illegal immigrants for the past 10 years, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
According to the affidavit, authorities focused on Southeastern Provision after the company’s activity raised eyebrows at its bank.
“Bank personnel began noticing large amounts of cash being withdrawn from the Southeastern Provision’s bank accounts. The cash withdrawals occurred on a weekly basis,” the affidavit said.
The arrests caused a frenzy among pro-immigration activists.
“People are panicked,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “People are terrified to drive. People are terrified to leave their homes.”
Teatro told WZTV that the raid was an “attack.”
“Our communities have lived under intense fear since the Trump administration began, and this raid — coupled with local law enforcement involvement — will send shockwaves across the country. The community has shown tremendous strength in the face of this brazen attack on its members: Churches have become sanctuaries for those who feel unsafe, community leaders are speaking out against the attack, and we will continue to fight for basic, Constitutional rights for all. No one — not even the president — can take those away,” Teatro said.
Worsham’s affidavit said the plant in Bean Station, Tennesee, is under criminal investigation and is suspected of evading taxes, filing false tax returns and hiring immigrants in the country illegally. As of Friday, no charges had been filed against the owners of the plant.
The affidavit claimed that the plant did not report $8.4 million in wages and did not pay $2.5 million in payroll taxes for the illegal immigrants who worked there.
According to WKRN, an undercover officer was hired by the company and was paid in cash.
WATE reported that a confidential informant was also used in the case, and said that he was hired without any paperwork and was told he did not need to have legal employment status to be employed at the plant.
The affidavit also said workers were subject to unsafe working conditions.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.