680 Undocumented Immigrants in Mississippi Detained by ICE in the Largest Single-State Raid

Wednesday, 680 undocumented immigrants in Mississippi were detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the largest single-state immigration raid in the country's history.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative arm of ICE, conducted seven raids on poultry processing plants in small towns around Jackson, Mississippi. Three of the raids were conducted at Peco Foods locations in Canton, Bay Springs and Sebastopol. A Koch Foods plant in Morton was also raided.

According to the Associated Press, agents asked workers to show identification; those who were confirmed to have legal status were allowed to leave the raids after the trunks of their vehicles were searched.

"It was a sad situation inside," said Domingo Candelaria, a legal resident and Koch worker told the news service.

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations special agents are executing federal search warrants today at multiple locations across the state of Mississippi as part of a coordinated operation with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi pursuant to ongoing HSI administrative and criminal investigations," U.S. Attorney Mike Hurts said in a statement.

ICE agent
Approximately 600 agents were involved in the raids of seven poultry processing facilities Wednesday. John Moore/Getty

Though 680 people were taken into custody by ICE and HSI, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox says that not all of those people will be permanently detained.

"You are going to have persons released," Cox told the Clarion Ledger. "ICE makes custody determination on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of their circumstances."

Those detained were boarded on buses and taken to a hangar at the Mississippi National Guard base in Flowood to be processed. Approximately 2,000 meals were provided for detainees. Those in custody were organized into seven lines, based on the facility they worked at.

"I've never done anything like this," Chris Heck, resident agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unit in Jackson, told The Associated Press inside the hangar. "This is a very large worksite operation."

In a statement, Peco Foods confirmed the raids at three of the locations, and said the company was cooperating with authorities.

Some children in the Scott County School District were also affected as their parents were detained by ICE. Superintendent Tony McGee told the Clarion Ledger he knew of six families in his district that had at least one parent caught in the raids, though he expected that number to increase.

McGee said teachers and staff are on standby, and bus drivers have been instructed to make a "visual reference to a parent or guardian," so children are not dropped off at empty homes. If a parent is not available, the child will be taken back to school.

"We're going to be here at the school until we make sure that every child is home safe or has a safe place to go," McGee said. "We're going to make sure our kids are taken care of first."

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba released a statement Wednesday calling the raids "dehumanizing and ineffective."

"The City of Jackson is firmly committed to promoting and securing safe communities. We unflinchingly uphold the canon of human rights for human beings. The ICE raids are both dehumanizing and ineffective as a tactic for protecting citizens from potential harm. These raids will only further alienate communities from law enforcement, disrupt community policing efforts, and cause law enforcement to forfeit credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve," Lumumba wrote.

"I'm calling upon faith institutions in our community to become sanctuaries for our immigrant neighbors and protect them from potential harm. The City of Jackson strongly objects to the Trump administration's ICE raids."