ICE raid: Parents of young children released after 146 immigrants arrested at Ohio plants
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released video of agents arresting more than 100 workers at a meatpacking plant in Salem, Ohio on Tuesday. The workers are accused of immigration violations. (June 20) AP
SALEM - Parents of young children were among the first released after federal officials arrested 146 undocumented immigrants in a raid Tuesday – the second large raid in Ohio in seven days.
The workers were arrested Tuesday at bacon- and hot dog-supplier Fresh Mark's location in Salem, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The raid was part of a yearlong investigation into allegations that Fresh Mark knowingly hired immigrants who were in the country illegally. Many immigrants working there were using fake identification belonging to U.S. citizens, ICE said. In total, ICE arrested 98 men and 48 women, mostly from Guatemala, according to spokesman Khaalid Walls.
It was the largest worksite raid nationally in at least a decade, ICE told CNN, as the administration of President Donald Trump cracks down on employers for hiring people in the country illegally.
On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of Latino children played safely in the courtyard of St. Paul Catholic Church. Many of their family members had been arrested the day before.
“It was a shock,” said Sister Rene Weeks, the parish’s director of Hispanic ministries. Of the arrests, she said: “Most of them are here legally, but they were taken yesterday because they didn’t have their documentation with them at the time.”
About 45 of the immigrants had been released Wednesday, Weeks said. ICE said it prioritized releasing people because of humanitarian concerns, such as health or family considerations.
For instance, some of the immigrants were parents of young children. After the raid, the local school district worked with St. Paul and other Spanish-speaking congregations to visit homes where Hispanic children might be suddenly left alone.
“One woman who was taken was the sole adult at home,” Weeks said. “She has five children.”
That woman and others were released once agents learned they had children at home. Weeks wasn’t sure Wednesday if there might still be other children left without the care of their parents or guardians.
Most workers arrested Tuesday were transported to facilities in Michigan and Ohio to await removal proceedings.
Last week, federal officials carried out another big raid in Ohio. They arrested 114 at two locations of Corso's Flower & Garden Center, one in Sandusky and another in nearby Castalia. ICE said charges likely would range from identity theft to tax evasion.
"Unlawful employment is one of the key magnets drawing illegal aliens across our borders," said Steve Francis, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge for Michigan and Ohio. "Businesses who knowingly harbor and hire illegal aliens as a business model must be held accountable for their actions."
Authorities have not filed charges against Fresh Mark, but plan to continue investigating the company. "Last night’s action was the opening salvo into the investigation against Fresh Mark," Walls said in an email.
Search warrants were executed Tuesday for documents at Fresh Mark's two locations in Massillon and one in Canton.
Fresh Mark is a member in ICE’s IMAGE program, which stands for ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers. However, IMAGE members are not immune from ICE scrutiny or prosecution for workforce compliance violations.
Fresh Mark confirmed that federal officials visited their four sites Tuesday. The company, in a statement, said it was the first in Ohio to use the voluntary (IMAGE) program, which allows employers to submit additional immigration paperwork to ensure compliance. It started in 2006.
"This program between the U.S. government and private employers ensures a lawful workforce," according to Fresh Mark's statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.