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One year after historic ICE raid at seven Mississippi plants, four company managers indicted

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the investigations of federal criminal violations continue.

One year after 680 undocumented workers at seven agricultural processing plants in Mississippi were detained on August 7, 2019, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Mississippi has announced indictments against four people who were managers, supervisors, or HR personnel at two of plants where the criminal and administrative search warrants were executed.

At the time, the U.S. Attorney’s office characterized the raids as the “largest single-state worksite enforcement action in nation’s history.” There was much concern over how the detained workers and their families would be treated in the aftermath of the raids, particularly in terms of parents being separated from children, or children not knowing what had happened to their parents.

Many were also wondering if there would be any criminal action taken against the employers, at least one of whom knew the workers were undocumented, according to a warrant application for a chicken processing plant. Details stated in the affidavit supporting the warrant application suggested it was well known that unauthorized workers were employed at the plant.

A&B, Inc. For his alleged actions at A&B, Inc., in Pelahatchie, Mississippi, a 57-year-old Pelahatchie man was charged with three counts of harboring illegal aliens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in falsely representing themselves to be United States citizens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in obtaining false Social Security cards, and one count of making a false statement to law enforcement officials when he denied having hired illegal aliens at the company. He faces up to 74 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines for these alleged criminal violations.

For her purported conduct at A&B, Inc., a 44 year-old Ocean Springs, Mississippi, woman was indicted on one count of harboring an illegal alien, one count of making false statements when she denied that she had hired illegal aliens for employment with the company, and one count of causing false employer quarterly wage reports to be filed when she knew the Social Security number represented in such reports was not assigned by the Social Security Administration to that specific employee listed therein. She faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for these alleged criminal violations.

Pearl River Foods LLC. Relating to her alleged actions at Pearl River Foods LLC, in Carthage, Mississippi, a 50-year-old Kosciusko, Mississippi, woman who was an HR manager, was indicted on six felony counts of harboring an illegal alien as well as one count of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Among other things, she allegedly harbored illegal aliens following the execution of federal warrants at the Pearl River Foods facility on August 7, 2019. She also purportedly submitted claims in connection with a grant from the State of Mississippi for reimbursement for on the job training that never occurred. She faces a maximum of up to 84 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines.

For his purported conduct at Pearl River Foods, a 39-year-old Flowery Branch, Georgia, man who was the manager, was indicted on five counts of harboring an illegal alien. He, too, is charged with harboring illegal aliens following the execution of the federal warrants. He faces a maximum of up to 50 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Notably, all of the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the investigations of federal criminal violations continue.

Targeting of vulnerable populations. “After the largest single-state ICE raid ever, I am glad that the Administration—a year later—is finally taking criminal action against employers and plant managers,” Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. “However, the Administration still has not answered for the cruel and unnecessary family separation inflicted on hundreds of Mississippi families and how it continues to poorly treat immigrants. With hundreds left behind, it’s clear that working families, rather than the employers taking advantage of these families, are the ones that continue to suffer from the effects of this raid. ICE must do its part by utilizing discretion in its enforcement to focus on national security threats instead of its consistent and blatant targeting of vulnerable populations. With limited resources, we must all work together to keep everyone in our communities safe.”