(CNSNews.com) - More than 300 people living and working in this country illegally have been released on humanitarian grounds, an I.C.E. spokesman said, following raids at seven meat and agriculture processing plants in Mississippi on Wednesday.
Those released had children or other dependents to care for, an ICE spokesman told ABC News:
"During processing, each alien is asked if they have any dependents that need to be cared for," ICE Southern Region Communications Director Bryan Cox told ABC. "Any arrestee who identifies a child care issue, and is not being criminally arrested or is subject to mandatory detention, will be expeditiously processed and returned to the point of apprehension so that they can get to their child or other dependents."
The raids drew harsh condemnation from people who support the illegal entry of hundreds of thousands of people coming here to improve their living conditions:
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told MSNBC on Thursday the raids are "wrong-headed and ineffective" and "Gestapo tactics."
What poor timing the president of the United States decides to take his very untoward and dastardly policies that are made to scare and intimidate, not just those who are engaged in this roundup, but all across the nation.
Now, let me be very clear, we understand that this is a land of immigrants and a land of laws; however, this process of raids have been used in the past, and they are wrong-headed and ineffective.
Every one of those persons has an address, were living in the community openly, their children were going to school and every one of them could have been appropriately rounded up in some other location.
They were not escapees or felons, as President Obama focused on, people who would do harm to the United States. These are people who are working. And not only that, the wrongness if you will is on the business that didn`t process these people in the right manner.
But I would say for the agricultural business, they`ve been begging for us to find ways for them to have workers in meat plants and other plants around the country.
So I am on Homeland Security. I think it's unfortunate when ICE has to be made into this kind of agency and to be an intimidator rather an agency that has in the past made sure that we`re safe in this nation. That is what Americans want, to be safe.
But when their neighbors are rounded up in a vile way, when children are left unprotected I'm disappointed. And the president and Steve Miller need to stop these Gestapo tactics, and we need to work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Jackson Lee placed the blame on President Trump's adviser Stephen Miller, saying he should be stopped "from characterizing this country as a Gestapo and a hater of immigrants."
ICE, in a news release, said the raids were conducted in accordance with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, "which requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of individuals they hire. These laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and lawful U.S. residents, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that unlawfully hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security."
ICE noted that "unauthorized workers" often use the stolen identities of American citizens, "which can profoundly damage for years the identity-theft victim’s credit, medical records and other aspects of their everyday life."
ICE said worksite enforcement helps combat "worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices. Worksite enforcement investigations often involve additional criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, document fraud, worker exploitation and/or substandard wage and working conditions."
ICE said in addition to rounding up some 680 people suspected of being in the country illegally, it also seized business records from the plants.
"All the unlawfully present foreign nationals arrested Wednesday are being interviewed by ICE staff to record any potential mitigating humanitarian situations. Based on these interviews, and consideration of their criminality and prior immigration history, ICE is determining on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of the circumstances which individuals will be detained and which persons may be released from custody at present."
(As noted above, some 300 were released, as television footage showed American-born children crying for their undocumented parents.)
ICE said those not released on humanitarian grounds are either being placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts, or processed for removal, if they have already been ordered removed.
Tom Homan, the former acting I.C.E. director, told Fox News Thursday night that the raid was a "large-scale criminal investigation that deals with identity theft, tax evasion, harboring illegal aliens." He said raids had been in the works for months.
"So It has nothing to do with the timing of what happened in El Paso and Dayton. This is a criminal investigation.where a lot of U.S. Citizens identification has been stolen. A lot of credits have been ruined. Employers are committing misdemeanors and felonies.
They "are investigating employers for knowingly harboring illegal aliens and commiting fradulent tax schemes," he added.