WASHINGTON—The Justice Department (DOJ) has unsealed indictments of managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel at several Mississippi meat processing plants that have been accused of employing illegal alien workers.
In August 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents simultaneously busted five plants in six central Mississippi cities, in a sweep that grabbed 680 illegal workers, including 18 juveniles.
According to ICE, worksite investigations often involve egregious violations by employers such as human smuggling, document fraud, money laundering, or worker exploitation, such as using threats or coercion, and substandard wages or working conditions.
Two of the four individuals charged worked at A&B Inc. in Pelahatchie, Mississippi.
Salvador Delgado-Nieves, 57, and Iris Villalon, 44, were both indicted for harboring illegal aliens and making false statements to law enforcement officials, according to the DOJ.
Delgado-Nieves was additionally charged with assisting illegal aliens in falsely representing themselves to be U.S. citizens and assisting illegal aliens in obtaining false Social Security cards.
He faces up to 74 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines.
Villalon also was charged for causing false employer quarterly wage reports to be filed with fraudulent Social Security information.
She faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
The other two indictments refer to Carolyn Johnson and Aubrey “Bart” Willis, who both worked at Pearl River Foods LLC in Carthage, Mississippi.
Johnson, 50, a human resources manager, was indicted on six felony counts of harboring an illegal alien as well as one count of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft, according to the DOJ.
Willis, 39, the manager, was indicted on five counts of harboring an illegal alien.
If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum of up to 84 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines, while Willis faces a maximum of up to 50 years and $1.25 million in fines.
The DOJ says investigations of federal crimes continue.
Of the 680 illegal aliens detained during the operation, 119 have been prosecuted for crimes including stealing the identities of U.S. citizens, falsifying immigration documents, fraudulently claiming to be U.S. citizens, and illegally reentering the country after having been deported, the DOJ stated.
ICE officials pledged in 2017 that the agency was aiming to quadruple its worksite enforcement and that illegal workers should be arrested during worksite operations.
Illegal alien workers were largely off-limits during the Obama era, when arrests plummeted to 106 individuals in fiscal 2016 from more than 1,600 in fiscal year 2009.
ICE increased its worksite criminal arrests by 460 percent from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2018, while administrative arrests increased by 757 percent.
Data obtained from the Social Security Administration revealed 39 million instances in which names and Social Security numbers on W-2 forms didn’t match corresponding Social Security records, according to a 2018 report by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).
The IRLI points to illegal immigrants as the main culprits.
The organization said the cases occurred between 2012 and 2016, after President Barack Obama stopped the practice of sending “no match” letters to employers, in cases where the name and number don’t match up on W-2 forms.
Obama stopped the no-match letters eight days after he implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty in 2012.