A Grainger County meat-processing plant was the subject Thursday of what one media outlet calls the largest immigration raid in a decade.
The Southeastern Provision plant in Bean Station was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), The Washington Post reports. Agents arrested 97 immigrants; 10 arrests were on federal immigration charges, one on state charges and 86 immigrants for being in the country illegally, the newspaper quoted an ICE spokeswoman as saying. Most of the immigrants reportedly were from Mexico.
The raid was part of the Trump administration’s increased focus on immigration enforcement, the newspaper reports.
WVLT Local 8 television news reports that the action began as a tax-related raid from the Internal Revenue Service. After the immigrants were detained, relatives and friends gathered outside a National Guard armory in Morristown where they were held.
The Washington Post story also said the Tennessee Highway Patrol was involved. The newspaper referenced an IRS agent’s affidavit claiming the plant is being investigated for alleged evasion of taxes, filing false tax returns and hiring illegal immigrants. The agent’s affidavit claims the plant failed to report $8.4 million in wages and to pay at least $2.5 million in payroll taxes for dozens of workers.
WATE reports the investigation began after bank officials told them about large cash withdrawals that slaughterhouse employees allegedly made.
The Tennessee Bar Association has joined with illegal immigration advocates. The association website urges its members who are immigration attorneys to volunteer their services and contact the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Advocates are raising legal funds on GoFundMe.