Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested eight workers Aug. 22 at the Smithfield Tar Heel, N.C., hog-processing plant on suspicion of identity theft, according to ICE spokesman Richard Rocha. Another 20 people, most of whom were either current or former Smithfield workers, were arrested under similar suspicion at their homes. "At this point, those arrested will be presented for federal criminal prosecution," Rocha said, declining to say whether they are suspected of stealing identities to obtain employment at the Tar Heel facility.
"They had the names of the people they wanted," Smithfield spokesman Dennis Pittman reported.
"When [the workers] came in, we directed them to the office where ICE agents were waiting. We found out whom (ICE agents) wanted a few days before they came in, but were not allowed to announce it. We couldn't even tell the rest of our staff here."
Pittman said ICE notified the company "a few days" before the raid and informed it of the workers the agency planned to arrest. Pittman noted that the ICE visit didn't cause much of a stir on the premises. "Most of our folks didn't even know it happened until they saw it in media reports," he said.
Of the 28 detainees, 13 were women and 15 were men. Twenty-five of the detainees are Mexican, two are Guatemalan and one is Honduran. The women are being detained in a jail in Mecklenburg County, while the men are being held in a prison in Alamance County, according to Rocha. None has been charged.