Federal agents have spent all day carrying out their raid of the Swift plant in Marshalltown. The raid was part of an effort to identify illegal immigrant workers using fake Social Security numbers and included Swift plants in five other states.
Gayle Montenegro is a spokesperson for “ICE” — the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The people rounded up will be processed and Montenegro says some may be removed from the United States in the next few days. Others will be placed in deportation proceedings and housed at immigration detention facilities.
Friends and families of the workers gathered outside the plant after the raid began in the morning, complaining they were refused permission to contact them and had children that needed to be cared for. Montenegro says it?s agency policy to arrange for child care for workers affected by today?s (Tuesday) raid.
“As part of our processing and questioning, we do make sure that any children are cared for and arrangements are made,” she says. The total number of workers arrested may not be known until Wednesday morning when federal officials make an announcement in Washington, D.C.
Tim Counts, a spokesman for the regional offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says six Swift plants were raided today. The plants were in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; and Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. Counts says they got civil warrants that permit agents to search for and arrest any illegal alien workers found at the civil facility, though he says it’s “about more than just illegal workers at a meatpacking plant. This is about identity theft.”
Swift executives complain the company worked with the federal government, using a verification program for years to check the I.D. of job applicants against a federal database so managers won’t find they’ve hired illegal aliens. Counts responded. He says sometimes illegal workers will make up a Social Security number, but sometimes they’ll use a legitimate one to get around safeguards set up by employers and the government. If they use a number that happens to belong to a legal citizen, he says “it makes them more difficult to detect.”
Counts says the hog and cattle operations of Swift and Company were targeted by agents who’ve worked for ten months with the Federal Trade Commission. “The FTC has identified what they believe to be hundreds of victims of identity theft,” Counts says. “These are U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who we believe had their identities stolen by illegal aliens who then use those identities to turn around and gain unlawful employment at these Swift plants.”
While today’s crackdown focused on determining the citizenship status of workers, Counts says criminal charges may be brought against some of the workers.