Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Federal immigration agents, assisted by local police and sheriff’s deputies, raided one of the nation’s largest suppliers of fresh and frozen poultry products yesterday and arrested more than 160 illegal aliens.

Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Monte Mayer said hundreds of federal agents, sheriff’s deputies and other local law-enforcement officers joined forces in a raid at Koch Foods in Fairfield, Ohio, in what he called “the latest crackdown on illegal aliens and the businesses who employ them.”

As of early afternoon, Sgt. Mayer said more than 160 people had been arrested on immigration violations.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, known for his tough stance against illegal aliens and a longtime advocate for enforcement of immigration laws, said he was “pleased” by the results of the multijurisdictional law-enforcement initiative.

“This is what can happen when we all work together,” Sheriff Jones said. “This is how the system should work. I fully expect that efforts like today’s will continue. To those companies that employ illegal aliens, I say: ‘Take heed. You could be next.’ ”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz confirmed at a press conference that 160 illegal aliens had been arrested on immigration violations, but said more than 180 other Koch employees have been identified for further questioning.

“The enforcement actions are part of a two-year, ongoing ICE investigation based on evidence that Koch Foods may have knowingly hired illegal aliens at its poultry processing and packaging facility,” according to an ICE statement.

ICE spokesman Greg Palmore said simultaneous search warrants were executed at Koch Foods in Cincinnati and at the Koch headquarters in Chicago.

The Koch raid was the latest in a series of raids targeting businesses suspected of employing illegal workers across the United States. Many U.S. meat industry workers are immigrants, mainly Hispanics. In December, hundreds of employees were detained in raids at Swift & Co. meat plants in six states.

Officials at the Koch Foods plant were unavailable for comment. Park Ridge, Ill.-based Koch Foods markets its products under the Koch Foods, Antioch Farms, Preferred Foods and Rogers Royal brands, among others.

The company maintains hatcheries, processing facilities and distribution centers throughout the Southeast and Midwest. It is among the country’s top integrated poultry processors and value-added food product manufacturers.

It controls its own supply and operations, and delivers fresh and frozen products to customers throughout the United States, and frozen products to customers around the world. Its product line includes whole birds, bone-in and boneless chicken breasts and legs, prepared and fully cooked snacks and entrees.

Sheriff Jones, who has sent bills to the federal government to pay for his housing of illegal aliens in jail, said he will not tolerate the employment of illegals in Butler County.

“I’ve been very outspoken on this issue. I’ve warned the illegals and I’ve warned employers. I’ve tried to educate employers on this issue and even paid for billboard and newspaper advertising explaining the dangers of hiring illegals,” he said.

“Obviously, some people just didn’t get it,” he said. “Shame on them. Hopefully, now they will get” the message.

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