More than 130 arrested in immigration raids in Minnesota, Nebraska
Christensen Farms, a family-owned pork producer based in Sleepy Eye, Minn., was one of about a dozen businesses raided by federal immigration officers Wednesday for allegedly hiring and mistreating workers suspected of being in the country illegally.
The large-scale operation was led by the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and targeted several agricultural firms in Minnesota and Nebraska accused of exploiting workers for profit, according to an ICE news release.
Christensen Farms is one of the largest pork producers in the country, with nearly 1,000 employees and firms in several Midwest states. Search warrants were served at the companys Sleepy Eye headquarters, as well as locations in Appleton, Minn., and Atkinson, Neb.
Company spokeswoman Amber Portner told the Associated Press that the company was cooperating with ICE agents and that she knew of no arrests made at any of the companys locations Wednesday.
In all, authorities issued arrest warrants for 133 workers suspected of being in the country illegally in Minnesota, Nebraska and Nevada, according to the release, in addition to 17 individuals connected to the alleged criminal conspiracy.
This HSI-led criminal investigation has shown that these targeted businesses were knowingly hiring illegal workers to unlawfully line their own pockets by cheating the workers, cheating the taxpayers and cheating their business competitors, Tracy Cormier, the special agent in charge of the operation, said in the release.
ICE said the operation was part of a 15-month ongoing investigation of companies accused of employing immigrants who come to the country illegally, some of whom used fraudulent names and personal information.
Specifically, these illegal aliens were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, have tax money deducted from their pay even though this money was never paid to the government and were coerced to remain quiet about this criminal activity, the agency said in the release.
Workers arrested were placed in custody until their cases are processed, according to the release. Some will be issued notices to appear before an immigration judge and released, while others will remain in ICE facilities until court proceedings.
Katie Galioto 612-673-4706