“Arresting parents on the first day of school does not make us safer.” -The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
On Wednesday, the first day of school in many parts of the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE) conducted raids across 11 different Mississippi chicken food-processing plants. Seven of the plants are part of Koch Foods, owned by billionaire CEO Joseph Grendys.
The unusually large size of the raids is unheard of, but in this instance, there were extenuating circumstances. A raid that took in an estimated 680 immigrants of various statuses was allegedly planned 11 months in advance. In this case, the circumstances include a $3.75-million-dollar lawsuit settlement. This lawsuit, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a Morton, Mississippi, plant included accusations of physical and sexual assaults against its workers. There were also accusations of intimidation, labor violations, exploitation, and harassment of its labor force, with immigrants making up a huge portion of that labor. Some people believe that the raids may be part of a larger intimidation. According to the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, “ICE field office’s actions will fuel labor abuses, human trafficking, and a race to the bottom for workers’ rights.”
Despite this raid, this is one of several incidents of illegal labor violations in which Koch Foods has been involved. Back in August 28, 2007, 161 undocumented immigrants were detained in a Koch Foods processing plant in Fairfield Ohio. In this case, they were fined a paltry $536,046 in 2010.
There has been no public discussion of charging billionaire owner Grendys with any crimes despite this not being his company’s first offense. Nor has there been any public discussion about arresting any connected managers or other owners involved.
Supposedly, any family with minors at home with multiple parents, at least one would be allowed to leave for humanitarian reasons. With accusations of children being separated from their parents, Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, wanted to make it clear that, “Within 27 hours after we raided, we could not find at single child who did not have at least one parent at home tending to them.”
Since the raid Bryan Cox, ICE spokesperson has said that 300 of the detained immigrants have been released.
Those not released, have been sent to three separate locations: Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, located at 1133 Hampton Dupre Road, Pine Prairie, LA, 70576; LaSalle Detention Facility at 830 Pine Hill Road, Jena, LA, 71342; and Adams County Correctional Center, 20 Hobo Fork Road, Natchez, MS 39120.
Koch Foods is an entirely separate company from Koch Industries, the company run by infamous libertarian conservatives David H. and Charles Koch.
According to The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, “ICE has opened 12 new immigrant detention facilities in Louisiana alone in 2019, allowing the agency to move thousands of asylum seekers to the region and to essentially eliminate the use of legally-mandated parole.”
Editor’s Note: You can join the New Orleans’ Worker’s Group at their Rally to Unite and Fight Back Against White Supremacy on Sunday, Aug 11 in Jackson Square at 6 pm.
Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. If you like this piece, you can read more of his work here.