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ICE arrested 146 workers at Ohio meat plant

By Justin Madden • Jun 20, 2018 at 4:14 PM

SALEM — ICE arrested 146 people accused of entering the country illegally during a Tuesday afternoon raid at a Ohio owned meat packaging plant, federal authorities said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's and Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant about 4 p.m. at the Fresh Mark, a meat processing plant, and arrested the employees for immigration violations, according to an ICE news release.

The employees were arrested at the meat supplier's Salem location. Search warrants were also executed for documents at the Fresh Mark's two locations in Massillon on Cloverleaf Street and South way Street, authorities said.

Investigators searched a fourth location in the 1600 block of Harmont Avenue North East in Canton, officials said.

Authorities were seen late Tuesday night escorting several dozens into an ICE facility in Brooklyn Heights just hours after the raid. They also unloaded several boxes from a U-Haul truck.

Investigators said Fresh Mark hired undocumented immigrants at its processing and packaging plants, and many of them used fake identities belonging to U.S. citizens, according to a statement from Homeland Security. Agents have been investigating Fresh Mark for a year, officials said.

An ICE spokesman could not be immediately reached for additional questions Wednesday morning.

Fresh Mark is a meat supplier with facilities in Canton, Massillon and Salem. The company supplies bacon, ham and hot dog meat to businesses and sports stadiums throughout Ohio, according to the company's website. One of the company's more popular products is the Sugardale Hot Dog, the hot dog often associated with $1 hot dog days at the Cleveland Indians' Progressive Field.

Fresh Mark officials directed questions to federal authorities, and stopped short of saying the meat company knowingly hired people who were living in America illegally.

Brittany Julian, director of corporate communications at Fresh Mark, said the company was the first in Ohio partner with ICE through a voluntary program called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program, or IMAGE.

Two weeks ago, immigration agents raided Corso's Flower and Garden Center in Erie County, detaining more than 100 workers. As a result, those workers were separated from their families.

Tuesday's raid in Salem comes within the same week as outrage continues to boil over President Donald Trump's administration "zero tolerance policy" on separating children from parents when they cross over the U.S.-Mexico border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy for illegal crossings at the Mexico border in May. The "zero-tolerance" approach criminally prosecutes anybody caught by immigration officials, which leads to separating children from their families.

This led to thousands of children being held at facilities at the U.S. border, including a renovated Walmart.

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of immigrant families.

His directive was expected to keep families together but in indefinite detention. That likely would open a new legal battle, over a landmark 21-year-old court settlement known as the Flores agreement under which the federal government agreed to hold minors no longer than 20 days.

Earlier in the day at the White House, speaking at the center of a table surrounded by Republican senators and House members, Trump said, “We’re going to keep families together but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don’t stand for and that we don’t want.”

“If you’re weak, you’re pathetically weak, you’re country’s going to be overrun with people,” Trump said. Scoffing that some equate being strong with having no heart, he added, “I’d rather be strong.”

The Fresh Mark plants employ about 2,800 people at the three of the four plants that were raided by federal agents, and left several families scared and without their loved ones, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Union.

"We are outraged by the actions of Donald Trump. 140 people couldn't go home to their families last night, and their children were left on their own to fend for themselves — that is unconscionable," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDU. "Yesterday, Donald Trump sent in ICE agents to separate hardworking immigrant families in an egregious show of force. Our union is a union of hard working people, which includes immigrants; and we stand with all immigrant workers, who are trying to support their families and better their lives. Our union will not stand for violence against immigrants; we will not stand for tearing families apart and we will not stand for the terrifying tactics of the Trump Administration. The RWDSU is committed to assisting workers affected by this ICE raid and will continue to fight against any and all heartless attacks on immigrant workers seeking to provide for their families."

The executive director of the ACLU of Ohio called Tuesday's raid "disgusting" and a way to continue the practice of racial profiling.

"There is no other way to say it. This is appalling and disgusting," J. Bennett Guess said. "It's about racial profiling, the systematic targeting of brown-skinned people, and the gross denial of due process rights."

Relatives of those arrested in Tuesday's raid can call the 24-hour detainee locator number to ask questions about the deportation process. The hotline is available in English or Spanish and is at 888-351-4024.

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