After US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 680 potentially undocumented immigrant workers in Mississippi, more than 300 of those taken into custody were released on Thursday, according to Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman.
“All persons released were transported back to their respective arrest locations,” Cox said. “We took them all back to the plants where they were arrested. No one had to procure transportation to get themselves back.”
The Department of Justice US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Mississippi said in a press release that approximately 30 of the detained were released on humanitarian grounds at the individual sites where they were initially encountered, and another 270 immigrants were released after being processed by HSI at the National Guard base in Pearl and returned to the place where they were originally encountered. Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said 107 Mexican nationals had been arrested in the raids, according to Reuters.
ICE officials said they had planned the raid months ago, targeting seven plants belonging to five companies: Peco Foods, PH Foods Inc., Koch Foods, Pearl River Foods and A&B Inc. The raids happened hours before President Donald Trump visited El Paso, Texas, where gunman Patrick Crusius was charged with capital murder for a mass shooting that left 22 people dead and 26 injured.
Immigration raids were common under President George W. Bush, including one of the largest raids in a single state at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, in 2008, which resulted in 400 arrests. Thursday’s raid, however, could be the largest such operation thus far in any single state, Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence told The Associated Press.
Peco Foods said in a statement, “We are fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation and are navigating a potential disruption of operations.” Koch Foods also said it planned to release a statement regarding the arrests.