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Largest U.S. immigration raids in a decade net 680 arrests at Mississippi plants

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Business continues at this Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, as chickens are shipped in for processing following Wednesday's raid by U.S. immigration officials. In an email Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox said more than 300 of the 680 people arrested Wednesday have been released from custody. (AP Photo/ROGELIO V. SOLIS)

MORTON, Miss.  — U.S. immigration officials raided seven Mississippi chicken processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 mostly Latino workers in the largest workplace sting in at least a decade.

The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Donald Trump visited El Paso, Texas, the majority-Latino border city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead.

“On a day when we seek unifying words and acts to heal the nation’s broken heart, President Trump allows so many families and communities to be torn apart,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.

About 600 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents fanned out across the plants operated by five companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing.

In Morton, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of the capital of Jackson, workers filled three buses — two for men and one for women — at a Koch Foods Inc. plant.

Those arrested were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations. About 70 family, friends and residents waved goodbye and shouted, “Let them go! Let them go!” Later, two more buses arrived.

A tearful 13-year-old boy whose parents are from Guatemala waved goodbye to his mother, a Koch worker, as he stood beside his father. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot.

Workers, including Domingo Candelaria, who could show they were in the country legally were allowed to leave the plant after agents searched the trunks of their vehicles.

“It was a sad situation inside,” Candelaria said.

Mississippi is the nation’s fifth-largest chicken producing state and the plants’ tough processing jobs have mainly been filled by Latino immigrants eager to take whatever work they can get. Chicken plants dominate the economies of Morton and other small towns east of Jackson.

Based in Park Ridge, Illinois, Koch is one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S, with operations in Mississippi and five other states. The company didn’t respond to telephone calls and emails seeking comment.

Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting director, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday in Pearl, just down the road from the Koch plant, that the raids could be the largest-ever workplace operation in any single state. Asked about their coinciding with Trump’s visit to El Paso, Albence responded, “This is a long-term operation that’s been going on.” He said raids are “racially neutral” and based on evidence of illegal residency.

The companies involved could be charged with knowingly hiring workers who are in the county illegally and will be scrutinized for tax, document and wage fraud, Albence said.

Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, called the “terrible” raids “another effort to drive Latinos out of Mississippi,” and he blamed Trump for fanning racism with his past incendiary comments about immigrants.

“This is the same thing that Trump is doing at the border with the Border Patrol,” he said, referring to the increased crackdown on migrants coming into the U.S.

Major immigration raids were common under President George W. Bush, including one at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, in 2008 that resulted in about 400 arrests. President Barack Obama avoided them, limiting workplace immigration efforts to low-profile audits.

Trump resumed workplace raids, but the months of preparation and hefty resources they require make them rare. Last year, the administration targeted a landscaping company near Toledo, Ohio, and a meatpacking plant in eastern Tennessee. The former owner of the Tennessee plant was sentenced to 18 months in prison last month.

On Wednesday, a hangar at a Mississippi Air National Guard base in Flowood, adjoining the Jackson airport, was set up to process those who were detained. Employees formed seven lines, one for each workplace raided, with fingerprint scanners and document printers at each interview station.

Cooling misters blew in front of fans, and 2,000 catered meals were ordered.

Agents who arrived at the Morton plant passed a chain-link fence with a sign that said the company was hiring. Workers’ wrists were tied with plastic bands and they deposited personal belongings in clear plastic bags.

“This will affect the economy,” Maria Isabel Ayala, a child care worker for plant employees, said as the buses left. “Without them here, how will you get your chicken?”

Other companies targeted in the raids included Peco Foods Inc., which has plants in Bay Springs, Canton and Sebastopol; PH Food Inc. in Morton; MP Food Inc. in Pelahatchie and Pearl River Foods Inc. in Carthage.

“We are fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation and are navigating a potential disruption of operations,” Peco, based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said in a statement. The company added that it participates in E-Verify, a government program to screen new hires for immigration status.

No one answered the phone at Pearl River Foods. A woman who answered the phone at PH Food declined to comment or identify herself. A telephone listing could not be found for MP Food.

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The Nation

CDL Meals offering special promotion for driver appreciation week

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CDL Meals are chef developed using wholesome, organic ingredients and offer a flavorful balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and vegetables. (Courtesy: CDL MEALS)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — CDL Meals, the division of Fresh n’ Lean that focuses on nutritious offerings for truck drivers, is offering a special promotion to help transportation companies celebrate National Driver Appreciation Week.

For National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW), fleet operators can purchase discounted meals and receive free Hot Logic heating bags.

There is a minimum purchase of 50 meals required to receive the free bag. Purchases of 100 meals receive two free bags.

Companies can also purchase gift cards for drivers to buy meals at their convenience. Orders are being taken through August 30.

The annual NTDAW, taking place this year September 8-14 commemorates and honors all professional drivers for their hard work and commitment to one of the country’s most demanding jobs.

“We are proud to support drivers across the country with delicious food that encourages better health,” said Bob Perry, director of CDL Meals. “This special promotion gives fleets a chance to support their drivers with something that’s good for them, too.”

The nature of truck driving can also lend itself to a less than healthy lifestyle, which is why CDL Meals focuses solely on this underserved profession.

CDL Meals are chef developed using wholesome, organic ingredients and offer a flavorful balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and vegetables. The meals are delivered fresh and can be refrigerated for up to seven days. The vacuum sealed trays can be heated quickly and enjoyed any time. Along with the meals, CDL provides a driver wellness education booklet with tips and suggestions to improve your health with easy lifestyle changes. Meals are $10 each for purchases up to 100 meals, with cost savings when purchasing more than 150 meals.

CDL Meals was launched earlier this year and was a beneficial part of the healthful transformation for Danny Jewell, 2018 Owner/Operator of the Year, who lost more than 25 pounds with the meal plan and coaching from Bob Perry, the Trucker Trainer.

With more than 50 years on the road and 6 million miles without an incident, Jewell was recognized for his professionalism and commitment to the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Safety council says motor vehicle deaths in 2019 projected to go below 40,000

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The estimate for 2019 caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ITASCA, Ill. — Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate the four-year upward trend in motor vehicle deaths that began in 2015 is ebbing with the number of fatalities in the first six months of 2019 dropping 3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2018.

An estimated 18,580 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June of this year, compared to the council’s revised estimate of 19,060 during the same period last year. An additional 2.1 million people are estimated to have sustained serious crash-related injuries during the first six months of 2018 – a 1 percent drop from 2018 six-month projections.

The estimate caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s.

A total of 118,315 people died on the roadways between 2015 and 2017, and an estimated 40,000 additional people perished last year.

However, drivers still face the same fatality risk this year as they did when fatalities were eclipsing 40,000 annually, because the estimated annual rate of deaths per miles driven has remained stable – NSC estimates 1.2 deaths per every million vehicle miles traveled, unchanged from 2018 rates.

“While the numbers indicate a slight improvement, the rate of deaths remains stagnant, and 18,580 deaths so far this year is unacceptable,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We cannot accept death as the price of mobility. We urge all drivers to slow down, buckle up, pay attention and drive defensively.”

The council’s early estimates indicate significant progress in some states. In the first half of this year, several states have experienced at least a 10% percent drop in motor vehicle deaths, including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah. A sample of states with increases through the first six months include Kentucky (6%), Hawaii (20%), Oregon (6%) and New Mexico (15%).

A complete list of state results is available here.

To help ensure safer roads, NSC urges motorists to:

  • Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions. Visit nsc.org for defensive driving tips.
  • Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from cannabis and opioids. Visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis.
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information.
  • Fix recalls immediately. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall.
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws.
  • Get involved in the Road to Zero Coalition, a group of more than 900 organizations across the country focused on eliminating roadway deaths by 2050. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to join.

The National Safety Council has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data mature. NSC collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so that deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.

Supplemental estimate information can be found here.

The NSC defines “serious” injuries as those requiring medical attention.

The National Safety Council uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics – an arm of the CDC – when calculating its estimates, because these data are the most comprehensive and inclusive numbers available.

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TTI report: Travel demand growing faster than system’s ability to absorb that demand

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — If more Americans are working, a new report confirms, more of us are also tied up in traffic.

The picture is painted clearly in the 2019 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).

Along with illustrating the problem, researchers also stress the same straightforward solutions they’ve long advocated: more of everything — roads, transit, squeezing as much efficiency out of the existing system as possible, reducing demand through telework, better balancing demand, and roadway capacity by adjusting work hours, and smarter land use.

“No single approach will ever solve this complex problem,” said Tim Lomax, a report author, and Regents Fellow at TTI. “We know what works. What the country needs is a robust, information-powered conversation at the local, state and national levels about what steps should be taken. We have many strategies; we have to figure out the right solution for each problem and a way to pay for them.”

The United States added 1.9 million jobs from 2016 to 2017 — slower growth than the 2.3 million-plus growth in four of the five previous years, but more than enough to exacerbate the nation’s traffic woes. TTI’s gridlock data extends back to 1982, when Ronald Reagan was in his first term, a postage stamp cost 20 cents, and gas was about $1.25 a gallon. Since that time, the number of jobs in the nation has grown almost nonstop by just over 50 percent to the current total of 153 million.

Furthermore, since 1982:

  • The number of hours per commuter lost to traffic delay has nearly tripled, climbing to 54 hours a year.
  • The annual cost of that delay per commuter has nearly doubled, to $1,010.
  • The nationwide cost of gridlock has grown more than tenfold, to $166 billion a year.
  • The amount of fuel wasted in stalled traffic has more than tripled, to 3.3 billion gallons a year.

“The value of investing in our nation’s transportation infrastructure in a strategic and effective manner cannot be overstated as these added costs impact our national productivity, quality of life, economic efficiency and global competitiveness,” said Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, which funded the TTI research. The 2008–2009 recession produced only a brief pause in traffic congestion growth, which bounced back at an even quicker pace than associated job recovery.

The result of today’s urban congestion is that the average freeway traveler has to allow almost twice the expected trip duration to ensure dependable arrival for time-sensitive things like medical appointments, day-care pickup, and airline flights compared to what would be required without congestion. Instead of the 20 minutes needed in light traffic, it’s best to plan a 34-minute trip.

“Those minutes don’t sound like much, but they add up quickly over a year,” says David Schrank, a TTI senior research scientist, and report author. “Eventually, we’re talking billions of wasted hours, and the cost of delay at that scale is just enormous.” Simply put, travel demand is growing faster than the system’s ability to absorb that demand. Once considered a problem exclusive to big cities, roadway gridlock now afflicts urban areas of all sizes and consumes far more of each day, making “rush hour” a long-outdated reference.

“The problem affects not only commuters, but also manufacturers and shippers whose travel delay costs are passed on to consumers,” said Bill Eisele, a report author, and TTI senior research engineer. “While trucks constitute only 7 percent of road traffic, they account for 12 percent of congestion cost.”

Researchers emphasize that it’s urgent for the nation to develop consensus on specific strategies for each urban travel corridor now, since major projects, programs, and funding strategies take a decade or more to develop and bear fruit.

Almost every strategy works somewhere and in some situations, they say, and almost every strategy is the wrong idea in certain places at certain times. Using a balanced and diversified approach that focuses on more of everything — tempered by realistic expectations — is the best way forward.

The 2019 Urban Mobility Report examines conditions in 494 urban areas across all states and Puerto Rico. The research was supported by INRIX, a leading provider of transportation data and analytics.

For a nationwide interactive map of congestion conditions visit https://mobility.tamu.edu/umr/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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