Nearly 300 arrested in immigration raids at poultry plants
MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas – Federal agents arrested nearly 300 people Wednesday in raids at Pilgrim’s Pride chicken plants in five states, the latest crackdown on illegal immigrant labor at the nation’s poultry producers.
In separate sweeps, authorities also arrested dozens of workers at a doughnut factory in Houston and the operators of a chain of Mexican restaurants in upstate New York. The arrests at Pittsburg, Texas-based Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the nation’s largest chicken producer, included charges of identity theft, document fraud and immigration violations. The company worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents ahead of the raid, said Ray Atkinson, a company spokesman. “We knew in advance and cooperated fully,” Atkinson said.
Julie Myers, assistant secretary for ICE, confirmed the company is cooperating, though she said the raids grew out of an investigation that produced arrests last year at the company’s plant in Mount Pleasant.
No criminal or civil charges have been filed against Pilgrim’s Pride, which has about 55,000 employees and operates dozens of facilities mostly across the South and in Mexico and Puerto Rico, supplying the KFC restaurant chain and other customers.
Forty-five people, all illegal immigrants, were arrested in Mount Pleasant on charges of false use of Social Security numbers, ICE said.
More than 25 people face immigration violation charges in Live Oak, Fla. They will also face identity theft or document fraud charges, ICE said. More than 20 were arrested in Batesville, Ark., on federal warrants for alleged document fraud or identity theft.