LOCAL News :: Civil and Human Rights : Crime and Police : Immigration

Federal agents arrest over 100 for immigration violations in Missouri raid

Michael Sung

[JURIST] US federal agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General [official websites] conducted a joint raid [ICE press release] on a poultry processing plant owned by George's Processing Inc. in Butterfield, Missouri Tuesday, arresting more than 100 employees for immigration violations. Pete Baird, the agent in charge of the Kansas City, Missouri ICE office, said that "these worksite enforcement actions help reduce the job magnet that encourages aliens to enter the country illegally" and added that the raid was conducted as a part of an identity theft and false document investigation. ICE spokesperson Tim Counts said that no charges have been filed against George's Processing, and did not say whether the poultry processing plant was aware that it was hiring undocumented workers. According to the US Census Bureau figures for 2005, Butterfield is home to approximately 416 residents [CB materials].
The raid is a part of a recent effort by ICE officials to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants, and comes amid debate in the US Senate concerning a controversial immigration reform proposal [JURIST report; JURIST news archive] that, if approved, would provide temporary work visas to up to 600,000 workers. In March, 360 people were arrested by ICE agents [JURIST report] in Massachusetts in a raid at Michael Bianco Inc., a leather factory that makes equipment for the US military.

100 Suspected Illegal Workers Arrested
May 23, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Federal immigration agents raided a poultry plant Tuesday morning and arrested more than 100 workers who are believed to be illegal immigrants.

Most of those arrested at the George's processing plant in rural Butterfield were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, said Pete Baird, an agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations office in Kansas City.

The arrests were part of a probe into identity theft and false documents, including stolen Social Security numbers, allegedly used by illegal immigrants, Baird said.

Three people pleaded guilty this year to Social Security fraud as part of the same investigation, and one person has been indicted, Baird said.

The arrested workers are being taken to detention facilities in Kansas City, St. Louis and Wichita, Kan.

"These work site enforcement actions help reduce the job magnet that encourages aliens to enter the country illegally," Baird said.

Several workers were released because they are the sole caregiver of a child, Baird said. They will be required to appear later for a court hearing, he said.

George's is a regional poultry processing company based in northwest Arkansas. Several hundred people worked at the Butterfield plant in southwest Missouri, authorities said.

The plant manager's office referred reporters to corporate headquarters in Rogers, Ark., for comment. A spokesman at George's Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

ICE spokesman Tim Counts said no charges have been filed against George's and declined to say whether the company knew it was hiring illegal aliens.

Federal agents have conducted several mass arrests since the April 2006 raids at pallet-maker IFCO Systems at 40 sites nationwide.

There have also been large raids at meatpacker Swift & Co., poultry plant Crider Inc. and leather factory Michael Bianco Inc. Nearly 3,000 suspected illegal workers have been arrested in dozens of states in all. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Social service advocates said the March arrests at the Michael Bianco factory in New Bedford, Mass. created a humanitarian crisis, with some children left with no one to care for them.

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