In April, agents made about 100 worker arrests at a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee, reminiscent of the high-profile shows of force that were common during President George W. Bush’s administration. No criminal charges have been filed against the employer.
Tuesday’s operation was rehearsed and carried out with quiet efficiency. At the sprawling Castalia location — covered with trees, flowers and greenhouse tarps — no workers were seen running as about 100 law enforcement workers from a variety of agencies established a perimeter. A voice on a radio called attention to specific employees who might try to flee, but none did.
Corso’s did not immediately return a message seeking information on the workers’ home countries.
RELATED: Dayton's immigrant population doubles
The investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 when the U.S. Border Patrol arrested a woman who gave stolen identity documents to job applicants in the country illegally, said Steve Francis, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Detroit.
The document vendor led investigators to the landscaping company, where they examined documents in its files for irregularities, Francis said. Some Social Security numbers belonged to dead people.
Of the 313 employees whose records were examined, 123 were found suspicious and targeted for arrest and criminal charges of identity theft and, in nearly all cases, tax evasion.
RELATED: Would you welcome an immigrant next door? Most in Dayton say yes
“We verified that a lot of U.S. persons were obviously unaware of this. It’s caused them a lot of hardship,” Francis said. “It’s not one that we’re looking for strictly as a worksite immigration raid.”
Immigration officials have sharply increased audits of companies to verify their employees are authorized to work in the country. There were 2,282 employer audits opened between Oct. 1 and May 4, nearly a 60 percent jump from the 1,360 audits opened between October 2016 and September 2017. Many of those reviews were launched after audits began at 100 7-Eleven franchises in 17 states in January.