ICE rounds up hundreds of undocumented workers in immigration sweeps in Mississippi

U.S. immigration authorities on Wednesday rounded up hundreds of undocumented workers in food processing plants during a sprawling operation in Mississippi that officials touted as the largest immigration enforcement sweep in a single state in U.S. history. 

By targeting workplaces across six different cities in southern Mississippi, Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents, with the help of the local district attorney’s office, apprehended approximately 680 undocumented immigrants. At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst said the large-scale raids collectively represented “the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history.”
“While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that, we are first and foremost a nation of laws,” he told reporters at the press conference, where he was flanked by Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence.Hurst said authorities relied on both criminal and administrative warrants to execute Wednesday’s raids at seven different work sites. Administrative warrants are usually used by ICE to detain people who are in the U.S. unlawfully but otherwise do not have criminal records. Albence, who was tapped last month to serve as acting director for a second time, said his agency would look to “swiftly” deport the apprehended workers with open orders of removal. Some, he added, would be prosecuted criminally. Those without criminal records or orders of deportations will be placed in immigration proceedings before a judge and may be released.An ICE official on Thursday told CBS News “several hundred” of the workers apprehended were released, while the agency determined that others will be moved to a detention facility.While officials on Wednesday framed the operation as a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers, advocates have long denounced an apparent disparity between the prosecution of unauthorized immigrants and the people and companies who employ them. Researchers at Syracuse University in New York found that between April 2018 and March of this year, just 11 individuals were criminally prosecuted for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers and only three of them were sentenced to time in prison. No companies were prosecuted. During that same time span, more than 85,000 immigrants were prosecuted for illegal entry.