Federal agents on Tuesday raided six meatpacking plants across the country, targeting illegal immigrants who obtained jobs by stealing the identities of U.S. citizens.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had surrounded the Swift plant in Greeley as well as five other Swift plants. It was not immediately known how many people were rounded up in the raids.
Similar raids were staged at Swift plants in Marshalltown, Iowa; Worthington, Minn.; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; and Hyrum, Utah.
ICE chief Julie Myers told reporters in Washington that agents had uncovered a scheme in which illegal immigrants and others had stolen or bought the identities and Social Security numbers of possibly hundreds of lawful U.S. residents to get jobs with Greeley-based meat processor, Swift & Co.
In a press release, Swift said the raids violate agreements it worked out with the federal government and could violate its workers’ civil rights.
“Swift has never condoned the employment of unauthorized workers, nor have we ever knowingly hired such individuals. Since the inception of the (federal government’s) Basic Pilot program in 1997, every single one of Swift’s new domestic hires, including those being interviewed today by ICE officials, has duly completed I-9 forms and has received work authorization through the government’s Basic Pilot program. Swift has played by the rules and relied in good faith on a program explicitly held out by the President of the United States as an effective tool to help employers comply with applicable immigration laws,” the company said.
Swift, a global company with annual sales of more than $8 billion, added that five of the six facilities raided are unionized—all except the one in Utah—and that no charges have been filed against the company “or any current employees.”
The six plants represent all of Swift’s domestic beef processing capacity and 77 percent of its pork processing, the company said.
Several rings suspected
Myers said immigration officials were “looking very aggressively” at who may have sold the identities to the workers in several cases. She said ICE had uncovered several different rings that may have provided illegal documents.
Some immigrants targeted had genuine U.S. birth certificates and others had other kinds of false identification, Myers said.
“The significance is that we’re serious about work site enforcement and that those who steal identities of U.S. citizens will not escape enforcement,” Myers said