The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa says 23 illegal aliens were indicted and charged on in connection with last week’s raid at the Swift meatpacking plant in Marshalltown. Attorney Matt Whittaker detailed the charges in a news conference today (Wednesday).
Whittaker says those arrested were charged for making false statements or claims that they were U-S citizens to gain unlawful employment, false stated identity documents to gain employment, fraudulently obtained social security cards to gain employment and false representation of social security numbers. Additionally, 10 of the 21 were charged with aggravated identity theft. Eighteen of the illegals were from Mexico, four from Guatemala, and one from El Salvador.
Whittaker says things began in March when a check by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) found nearly one-third of the 21-hundred workers at Swift may be illegally employed. Whittaker says when he was presented with potentially 664 individuals that they had no idea what their name was or who they were, something had to be done.
Whittaker says they talked with Swift officials several times about alternative, but could never agree how to do that. Whittaker says talks with ICE eventually led to the decision for a nationwide raid. The raid included plants in five other states along with Iowa.
Governor Tom Vilsack sent a letter to President Bush today critical of the Swift raid, saying the children of the illegals were left without their parents. Whittaker says he briefly looked at the letter, and says Vilsack’s claim is not true.
Whittaker says, “The bottom line is that we do not have specific instances of parentless children wondering the streets of Marshalltown. I think a lot of this is being over exaggerated for political effect. The bottom line is that those issues were considered as part of the operations plan.” Whittaker says in some cases illegals with children were let go to take care of their kids.
The Governor also was critical because he was not notified of the raid. Whittaker says this was a civil law action and ICE determined who should be notified. “The folks that needed to know were consulted, and I think this was a very successful operation,”Whittaker says. Whittaker says there were people who were upset that they weren’t contacted, including the sheriff of Marshall County.
Whitaker says criticisms that the National Guard was not consulted are also not founded. Whittaker says he talked with the ICE agent in charge about the issue. Whittaker says the ICE agent has assured him that the National Guard knew exactly what they were planning on doing at Camp Dodge. Whittaker says they actually told the guard to expect three times the number of people. “They were significantly in the loop,” Whittaker says. Whittaker says he doesn’t know if the information was communicated up the chain of command at the Iowa Guard. Whittaker says you can only tell so many people before the operation becomes compromised.
Whittaker says the operation was a success, as he says it will have a “dramatic” impact in Marshalltown where he says they have stopped a “certain type of behavior.” Whittaker talked some about how the Swift workers got the illegal documents, but said some of that is still under investigation. Whittaker says they believe some of the documents were purchase from the legal owners, and others were purchased by “brokers.”
None of the illegals have yet been deported and Whittaker says there’s the potential that more illegals will be found at the Swift plant. Whittaker was asked if Swift will face any charges, and said he could not answer as it is an ongoing legal matter. Whittaker also announced the arrest of seven illegals at Swift prior to the raid last week on similar charges.