Feds had probable cause to arrest plant management in Mississippi immigration raids, but didn’t

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12: Hundreds of people gather in lower Manhattan for a "Lights for Liberty" protest against migrant detention camps and the impending raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this coming weekend in various cities on July 12, 2019 in New York City. Fear is increasing in many immigrant neighborhoods as ICE is scheduled to begin rounding up illegal immigrants in cities across the nation starting on Sunday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

One of the possible reasons given for the failure of immigration authorities to arrest or charge any of the employers involved in the mass immigration raids at processing plants in Mississippi is that it’s hard for authorities to prove that the employers knew they were hiring people who couldn’t work legally. So much for that excuse.

The Washington Post is reporting that officials now say “they have probable cause that all five companies operating poultry plants raided by authorities in Mississippi last week violated immigration law by knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants, according to search warrant affidavits that cite videotaped statements of managers.” Two of the plants, Koch Foods and Peco Foods, have been on the radar of the federal government since at least 2002, and since then the government has reported more than 350 arrests or interactions with undocumented people working at those plants.

Homeland Security investigations agent Anthony Todd Williams Jr. wrote in one of the search warrant affidavits, newly unsealed, that there is probable cause to believe that the companies intentionally hired undocumented workers with fraudulent documents “for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.” He also wrote that individuals or companies that had “actual knowledge” of violating the law in employing undocumented workers would be subject to fines or imprisonment.

So, on the basis of those search warrants, immigration officials had cause to arrest managers or executives of the companies during the raids. They didn’t. They still haven’t, “although the documents name numerous managers who apparently knew about the widespread practice, according to the affidavits recently unsealed in Mississippi federal court.”

Last week, Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin of Maryland wrote to Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan demanding information on the raids, including what information the agencies had on the employers involved. “It appears that these DOJ and ICE enforcement actions are targeting only immigrant workers and not their employers,” they say in the letter.

It sure does appear so. Those prosecutions could still come, but it’s pretty clear that the motivation behind this raid was not enforcing the rule of law. It was terrorizing the immigrant community. It’s about the cruelty.

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