Pilgrim's Pride employees the focus of I.C.E. raids

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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BATESVILLE, ARK. — Some arrests were made when agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raided a poultry processing plant owned by Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. in Batesville on Wednesday. Authorities said agents also were serving arrest warrants in five other states.

The Arkansas raid was part of an ongoing criminal investigation involving the Pilgrim’s Pride plant, Temple Black, a spokesman for the I.C.E. agency, told the Associated Press. Agents also were serving arrest warrants in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Georgia as part of the investigation.

Mr. Black would not say how many people were arrested at Pilgrim’s Pride or describe the nature of the investigation. According to Pilgrim’s Pride, about 400 hourly, non-management employees at processing facilities in Batesville; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Live Oak, Fla.; Moorefield, W. Va.; and Mount Pleasant, Texas, were taken into custody.

"According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, these individuals have engaged in immigration-related crimes, including aggravated identity theft, in order to fraudulently obtain employment with the company," Pilgrim’s Pride said. "No civil or criminal charges, including charges that Pilgrim’s knowingly hired these employees or conspired to hire them, have been filed against the company in any of these cases. Pilgrim’s Pride cooperated fully with I.C.E. and the U.S. Attorney’s office to help them apprehend these individuals. In fact, it was Pilgrim’s Pride that uncovered the identity theft situation in Batesville and notified the federal government, and we worked closely with them to identify those individuals who were apprehended at the Batesville site."

Pilgrim’s Pride said the employees in question represent about 4% of the 9,400 people employed at those facilities. The company participates in E-Verify, a program that determines employment eligibility for new hires.

"We share the government’s goal of eliminating the hiring or employment of unauthorized workers," the company said. "We have terminated all of the employees who were taken into custody and will terminate any employee who is found to have engaged in similar misconduct. We are investigating these allegations further."

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