Immigration agents raid Pilgrim’s Pride plants
MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas – Federal immigration agents raided Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants in five states Wednesday in a crackdown on an alleged scam to provide fake identification for illegal immigrant workers, authorities said.
More than 100 people were expected to be charged in the raids at the nation’s largest chicken producer, Julie Myers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement assistant secretary.
“Identity theft is a horrible problem that can ruin a person’s good name,” Myers said.
The raids were part of a long-term investigation, officials said. Plants were raided in Mount Pleasant, Texas, Batesville, Ark., Live Oak, Fla., Chattanooga, Tenn. and Moorefield, W.Va., authorities said.
Ray Atkinson, a spokesman for Pittsburg, Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride, said the company went to ICE agents with information about identity theft at the Arkansas plant. Atkinson said the company uses a federal database to check identity documents of new employees, but that wouldn’t stop a person from using a real, but stolen ID.
Atkinson said no criminal or civil charges have been filed against the company, which has about 55,000 employees and operates dozens of facilities mostly across the South and in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The poultry raids were the largest of several immigration enforcement actions taken across the country Wednesday.
Agents arrived before dawn at a Houston doughnut plant and arrested almost 30 workers suspected of being in the country illegally. Robert Rutt, the agent in charge of the Houston ICE office, told the Houston Chronicle some of the people arrested lived at the Shipley Do-Nuts dough factory, a four-block plant that includes a dormitory for workers.
In Buffalo, N.Y., federal law enforcement officials announced the arrest of a local businessman and nine associates accused of employing illegal Mexican immigrants in seven restaurants in four states.
Authorities also arrested 45 illegal immigrants during the early morning raids in western New York, Bradford, Pa.; Mentor, Ohio; Wheeling and New Martinsville, W.Va., and Georgia.
Authorities said the workers were forced to staff the Mexican restaurants for long hours with little pay to work off smuggling fees and rent.
The restaurants’ owner, Jorge Delarco of Depew, N.Y., is charged with conspiring to harbor illegal aliens. He was due in court Wednesday afternoon and it was not immediately known if he had a lawyer.