TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — More than 100 workers were arrested Tuesday at an Ohio meatpacking plant by federal agents following a yearlong immigration investigation, the second large-scale raid within the state in the past two weeks.
The investigation focused on whether the company knowingly hired people who are in the country illegally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
The agency said it also was looking into whether many of the workers were using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.
The arrests come as the U.S. government steps up its focus on businesses that hire people in the country illegally as part of a broad range of immigration crackdowns under President Donald Trump.
The 146 arrests in one of the largest workplace immigration raids in recent years happened at Fresh Mark’s meat processing plant in Salem, in northeastern Ohio. Immigration agents and local authorities also carried out search warrants at the company’s two other locations in Massillon and its plant in Canton.
Most of the workers arrested were from Guatemala, said Khaalid Walls, an agency spokesman.
Several of those who were detained were processed and released on Tuesday because they are the sole care providers of children or they have health concerns, Walls said.
No criminal charges have been filed against Fresh Mark, but authorities say the investigation is continuing.
The company makes bacon, hot dogs, ham and lunch meat for the Sugardale and Superior’s brands.
The company referred questions to federal authorities, but noted in a statement that Fresh Mark is a member of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s self-policing program that’s described as a way for employers to verify workers are in the country legally and to spot fraudulent documents.
The agency said members of the program aren’t immune from prosecution for workforce compliance violations.
“Unlawful employment is one of the key magnets drawing illegal aliens across our borders,” said Steve Francis, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Detroit.
Two weeks ago, immigration agents arrested 114 people at a garden and landscaping company in northern Ohio. Authorities said they planned to charge workers for crimes including identity theft and tax evasion.