Federal agents are at the Swift meatpacking plant in Marshalltown today (Tuesday) examining the immigration status of employees.
Gayle Montenegro, a spokesperson for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, spoke with the media in Marshalltown: “We executed a civil search warrant…That search warrant allows us to question anybody regarding their immigration status. This is part of an investigation into a large identity theft ring that may have victimized hundreds of U.S. citizens.”
Montenegro says the agents are executing warrants at five other Swift facilities across the country. “This is an investigation that began in February of 2006,” she says.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency — which she calls “ICE” — is working with the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission on this identity theft ring investigation. She says there will be a news conference in Washington, D.C. tomorrow (Wednesday) to provide more details of the investigation.
Janet Cruz of Marshalltown has friends and relatives working at the plant and she rushed to the plant gates this morning after she heard about the raid. “It is not fair because what are the little kids that go to school supposed to do?” Cruz told reporters.
One woman, who asked not to be identified, said she hasn?t been able to contact her husband who works at the plant. “I’ve got my husband’s green card right here and they won’t let me talk to him, they won’t let me give it to ’em, they won’t even let me do anything with it,” she said. “I tried calling the load dock where he works and none of them will even help me. You’d think the supervisors would come and get it so they won’t take one of their workers, but they won’t do it.”
Marshalltown Police Chief Lon Walker was notified early this morning that federal agents would be in Marshalltown, but local law enforcement is not involved in the raid. “We have some officers out there to just assist in traffic and crowd control, but other than that, we have not been involved,” Walker says. The Marshall County Sheriff is not involved either, according to Walker.
Six Swift plants around the country were raided this morning. The other plants are in Worthington, Minnesota; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; and Greeley, Colorado. Swift executives say operations at the six plants were temporarily suspended until the end of today, but “production levels will depend on the number of employees, if any, detained.”
In a prepared statement, the company’s executives said they believe that today’s raid violates an agreement the company has had with the feds on how to handle job-related issues, and raises “serious questions as to the government’s possible violation of individual workers’ civil rights.” The company’s president said Swift has “never condoned” hiring undocumented workers and has “played by the rules.”