In what appears to be the largest worksite enforcement raid under the current administration, ICE arrested 97 immigrants at a meatpacking plant in Tennessee. Eighty-six of the people apprehended were arrested on immigration charges. According to reports, ICE has detained 54 individuals.
This ICE raid follows the arrest of 21 individuals during a nationwide ICE operation in January targeting 7-Eleven franchises.
The raid at Southeastern Provision in Tennessee was a joint operation involving ICE, the IRS, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Federal and state charges against the company include failure to comply with Tennessee’s E-Verify requirements, and the family-run business also is being investigated for tax charges, as well as immigration charges. The investigation began when bank employees reported Southeastern Provision had been making weekly withdrawals of large sums of cash since 2008 ($25 million in total). In a federal affidavit, it is alleged that the company hired undocumented workers, paid them in cash, and made them work in harsh conditions with long hours for which they were not properly compensated.
Company managers have not yet been charged, but it appears that the various agencies involved are executing search warrants to gather evidence. IRS enters into information agreements with federal and state authorities and banks have an obligation to report large cash transactions ($10,000 or more a day) under the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law.
Religious leaders in the community have been critical of the raid. Bishop Richard Stika said in a statement, “The arrests of workers and undocumented immigrants in East Tennessee this week has placed an unnecessary stress on vulnerable families that have, in many ways, become victims in a much larger story.”
An ICE raid implicates potential civil and criminal charges and, therefore, it is essential to consult with counsel on these matters.