U.S. immigration officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) swarmed on Texas-based trailer company Load Trail in Sumner on Tuesday, where they arrested approximately 160 undocumented immigrants.
In what is being described as one of the “largest workplace raids in the last 10 years,” workers at the company were using falsified identity documents. The investigation first started from a tip that the company knowingly hires illegal immigrants, reported NY Daily News.
“Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger. “In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere poised for exploiting their illegal workforce.”
A statement issued by the joint task force revealed the plans going forward, in which “all illegal aliens encountered will be fingerprinted and processed for removal from the United States.” AOL reported that ICE will also interview all 160 detainees to determine whether any of them qualify for “humanitarian release.” Qualifying factors will include being a sole caregiver to a child.
Berger has warned that the full investigation into this raid could take not only months but years to complete.
“It’s a big deal. This is probably one of the larger, single-site work site operations in the last 10 years,” she said. “We are still collecting and vetting data,” she said, adding that “the administrative arrests are just one part of our criminal investigation.”
At this stage, no criminal arrests have been made, but a criminal search warrant for the business has been issued.
Berger insisted that both agencies had thoroughly planned the raid in order to ensure that “the people we are administratively arresting are humanely treated or well-treated throughout the entire event.”
HSI has also set up a hotline for families of the detained workers to follow their whereabouts and the process of their removal from the country.
It is not the first time that the company has landed in hot water for employing people illegally. In 2014, they were fined $445,000 for employing 179 unauthorized workers.
Load Trail was founded in 1996 and employs approximately 500 workers on the 100-acre site.
An employee, Dennis Perry, told The Dallas News that the raid saw “armed agents moving in from every corner” on Tuesday.
“They drew their guns and told everyone to hit the ground,” he said.
He added that some of the workers had tried to run and hide from the agents and had been tackled to the ground.
The nationalities of the workers have not been released.