The operation consisted of about 600 ICE agents fanning out across the processing plants, making sure to completely surround the perimeter to prevent workers from escaping. Arrests were made both inside the buildings and in the surrounding parking lots.
“[It] is believed to be the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history, today at seven sites,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst told The Hill.
Anyone who could demonstrate that they were in the country legally was immediately allowed to leave, although many stayed to voice their displeasure with ICE and immigration enforcement in general.
ICE filled three buses, two for men and one for women, with detainees to be transported roughly 40 miles to a military hangar near the capital of Jackson for processing.
The makeshift processing center at the Mississippi Air National Guard Base consisted of seven sections. Detainees formed lines correlating with their workplace and eventually went through interview stations with fingerprint scanners and document printers.
The conditions in the hangar were generous, with cooling misters blowing in front of fans and over 2,000 catered meals.
Massive workplace raids used to be relatively common under President George W. Bush, but his successor, President Barack Obama, tended to shy away from them. Obama preferred to use low-profile audits to curb the hiring of illegal immigrants.
President Donald Trump, much to the chagrin of his political opponents, resumed the practices of the last Republican administration. These raids are rare, however, as they eat up a considerable amount of resources and planning time.
Critics, such as Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, were quick to attempt to connect the two events.
“On a day when we seek unifying words and acts to heal the nation’s broken heart, President Trump allows so many families and communities to be torn apart,” Salas said in response to the successful sting.
The connection was purely coincidental, however, as an operation of such magnitude certainly took months of preparation. Acting ICE director Matthew Albence confirmed this in a later interview with the AP where he described the raids as “a long-term operation that’s been going on.”
He countered the potential racial angle, calling the operation “racially neutral” and purely evidence-based.
Albence also speculated that the raids could be the largest-ever workplace operation in any single state, and certainly the largest within the last decade.
Albence claimed the operators of the plants, five companies in total, could be charged with knowingly hiring illegal resident workers, resulting in peripheral accusations of tax, document, and wage fraud.
The arrests were met with contempt from some of the president’s vocal critics, who tied the operation in with an overarching narrative that immigration law enforcement is, in essence, racist.
Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, was one of those critics. He classified the “terrible” raids as “another effort to drive Latinos out of Mississippi,” while also blaming Trump directly for inspiring racism.
“This is the same thing that Trump is doing at the border with the Border Patrol,” he alleged, referring to the administration’s commitment to enforcing federal immigration law on the southern border.
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