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ICE arrests at workplaces skyrocketed 640% this year

Arrests for immigration offenses were double the number for criminal offenses

by Tess Owen
Dec 13 2018, 5:46pm

After scattered reports of several large-scale ICE raids at workplaces this year, new numbers out from Homeland Security show just how dramatically ICE has ramped up its enforcement activity in 2018.

According to a report released Tuesday, the number of ICE arrests at workplaces grew by a whopping 640 percent compared to the previous year, from 311 in 2017 up to 2,304 this year. Homeland Security investigation agents also opened 305 percent more investigations compared to the previous year, 6,848 in 2018 compared to 1,691 in 2018.

Of the 2,304 arrests stemming from workplace raids, 779 were for criminal offenses, and 1,525 were for immigration offenses.

Among the high-profile raids reported earlier, 114 people were arrested in June when some 200 ICE officers, backed with helicopters, raided two locations of an Ohio gardening business in Sandusky and Castalia. Later that month, ICE agents raided a meat-processing plant in northern Ohio and arrested 146 employees, which they said was the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the company’s practice of hiring undocumented workers.

In April, ICE raided another meatpacking plant – that time in rural Tennessee, arresting 104 people on “immigration violations.” And in August, Homeland Security investigators arrested 160 people on immigration violations during a raid on a trailer manufacturer in Sumner, Texas.

The uptick in immigration enforcement at workplaces delivers on President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on businesses that hire undocumented immigrants as opposed to citizens. (Trump himself has been accused of hypocrisy: Two undocumented women said they’d used false papers to get jobs at Trump’s golf resort in New Jersey, with their supervisors’ knowledge, and were responsible for cleaning the president’s unit. One said the president cared more about the quality of the cleaning than the workers’ status.)

“Employers who use an illegal workforce as part of their business model put businesses that do follow the law at a competitive disadvantage,” said Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner in a statement Tuesday. “These laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, reduce the incentive of illegal migration, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and ultimately help strengthen public safety and national security.”

According to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report, ICE workplace raids were trending downward after peaking in 2011. In 2014, for example, there were 903 arrests stemming from workplace raids: 541 arrests on immigration charges, and 363 on criminal charges.

Cover: An employee sorts through boxes at the Win.It America warehouse in Walton, Ky., on May 1, 2018. After an ICE agent arrested one of the company's employees, the warehouse lost 28 workers over several weeks and struggled to meet its shipping deadline. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

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