More than 100 people were arrested Tuesday when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers swarmed an Ohio gardening business in one of the agency’s biggest workplace raids.
Helicopters buzzed overhead as some 200 ICE officers raided two locations of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center, one in Sandusky and the other in Castalia, and arrested 114 people suspected of being in the country illegally, according to the Associated Press. It’s one of the largest, if not the largest, workplace raids conducted by the Trump administration to date.
The undocumented immigrants are expected to be charged with tax evasion and identity theft. No criminal charges have been raised against the employer so far, though an investigation is underway.
“All I could think about is my mom because I didn't know where she was. And also my sister, because I didn’t know where my sister was either. And everyone was just crying. It makes me really sad knowing that they’re going to take some people away,” Salma Sabala, who works at Corso’s, told local news outlet WKYC3 through tears.
"They're armed. They had the dogs. We hear the helicopters on top of us," she added.
She said that undercover ICE officers showed up in the business’s break room and offered donuts before the raid started.
Children of those arrested were left behind, stranded with babysitters and in daycare facilities, according to local activists.
The raid comes two months after ICE arrested 97 suspected undocumented immigrants in a raid of a Tennessee meatpacking plant. These sorts of raids are on the rise after outgoing ICE chief Thomas Homan instructed the agency to increase their time spent on worksite enforcement by “four to five times.” ICE also recently conducted a widespread raid on 7-Eleven franchises, blitzing 98 locations and arresting 21. And while the agency says the raids are being conducted in the interest of protecting American jobs, there’s a shortage of workers in the landscaping industry.
ICE had been receiving tips from locals about the business for the last decade, according to local news station NBC 24, but the investigation only gained traction in the last six months. The raid was launched after a recent audit of the company’s employee records revealed 123 “suspicious” employees in a survey of over 300 personnel records.
Rosa Ramos, whose stepdad was taken into ICE custody, told WKYC3 he texted her as he was being bused off.
"If I don't see you guys anymore, I love you guys. Please take care of my kids," he wrote.
Cover image: Getty