In August 2019, U.S. the Trump administration carried out massive workplace raids on chicken processing plants across Central Mississippi, arresting 680 Indigenous, Latino, and immigrant poultry workers. The Mississippi workplace raids were among the largest such raids in U.S. history, and targeted plants where workers had recently won a major lawsuit over rampant sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
In the aftermath of the Mississippi raids, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) referred dozens of workers for criminal charges, including for using false identity documents to work and for unlawful reentry into the United States. Other workers were detained by ICE, separated from their loved ones, and deported to dangerous conditions in their home countries. Of those who tried to return to reunite with their families in the U.S., at least one individual, Edgar Lopez, was killed in Mexico while trying to reach his family in Mississippi. And after making that difficult journey, many have been again charged with unlawful reentry. Moreover, all survivors of the raids and their families, including those who were not deported but instead placed under ICE supervision, continue to live and work with a heightened fear of detention and deportation.
The Biden Administration sought to address the harms stemming from ICE raids on poultry plants in 2021, when DHS reaffirmed its agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor in its Worksite Enforcement memo that ensured immigration actions would not undermine the enforcement of workplace rights. In its October 2021 statement, DHS acknowledged that workplace raids “were used as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers’ assertion of labor laws” and ended the use of such worksite enforcement actions. In spite of this policy change, workers in Mississippi continue to face harm resulting from ICE raids.
The Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Immigration Project and National Immigrant Justice Center developed the following explainer, which addresses the ongoing harms caused by the worksite raids. Prosecution of raid survivors and their families for unlawful reentry under 8 U.S.C. § 1326, and other charges and convictions stemming from the worksite raids, continue to impact these workers and reaffirm the chilling message sent by ICE to immigrant workers across the U.S. South.
Today, the Biden administration must take action to address the harms that ICE has caused, and repair the ongoing harms of the raids. Read the full explainer with recommendations here.