On April 5, 97 people were arrested and detained in a family-run meatpacking plant in Bean Station, TN. The company is called Southeastern Provision. It was the country’s largest immigration workplace raid since the Postville IA raid in 2008. Ninety-seven persons were arrested and are now facing deportation, and as of April 12, 54 of them were currently detained. Thirty-two were released from custody but remain in removal proceedings. Eleven are being held on state and federal charges. (From the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition)
As of April 12, it was known that 500 to 600 children were absent from school in Morristown, a 30,000 population city, on the Friday that followed the raid. 160 children had parents who were arrested and now possibly face deportation. 108 TN children had parents who are now detained in Louisiana
According to a Washington Post story on April 6, in a federal affidavit, IRS Special Agent Nicholas R. Worsham said the family-run plant is under criminal investigation for allegedly evading taxes, filing false tax returns and hiring immigrants in the country illegally.
He alleged the facility failed to report $8.4 million in wages and to pay at least $2.5 million in payroll taxes for dozens of undocumented workers.
Federal agents began investigating the company months ago after Citizens Bank employees noticed that Southeastern Provision was withdrawing large sums of cash every week — more than $25 million since 2008. Worsham said the plant hired undocumented workers who were paid in cash and subject to harsh conditions, including long hours without overtime and exposure to bleach and other chemicals without protective eyewear.
Also see New Yorker article: “In Morristown, a larger town of thirty thousand people, the raid was catastrophic news. Families’ worst fear had come true: husbands, fathers, wives, mothers—gone. The following day, more than five hundred students were reported absent from area schools, kept home out of a combination of fear, anxiety, and confusion. The raid also set off a whirl of activity, as relatives of those arrested gathered each day at a church in the center of town to meet with advocacy groups and discuss their legal options.”
Southeastern Provision was the third largest employer in Grainger County.
Past large raid in 2018: On January 9, ICE did a sweep of 7-11 stores. ICE said its agents showed up at 98 stores and made 21 arrests, describing the operation as a warning to other companies that may have unauthorized workers on their payroll.
Largest raid since 2000: On May 12, 2008 ICE raided the Agriproccessors plant in Postville, IA, said to be with its 1,000 odd employees the largest kosher meat processing facility in the world. ICE arrested 389 workers for illegal status. This was heralded as the largest ICE raid ever.