Tuesday’s sweep of six Swift & Co. meat plants by Department of Homeland Security agents and other law enforcement personnel was spurred on by an investigation of a sophisticated identity-theft ring.

According to reports, the identity-theft ring allegedly bought names and social security numbers, then resold them to illegal immigrants. Some of those immigrants used their new identities to gain employment at Swift plants and possibly other companies. Several buses came to remove the arrested personnel.

An ICE statement indicated that Swift is not being targeted, but that hundreds of employees are the focus. As reported in local newspapers, hundreds of agents arrived at each plant, and illegal aliens were found with legitimate U.S. birth certificates and other forms of identification. The identity-theft investigation has been active since February, ICE officials said.

A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday in which ICE will offer more details. The agency also was investigating whether U.S. citizens provided documents that allowed immigrants to obtain their own authentic documents, reports Meatingplace.com.

An American Meat Institute statement said that the Swift raids "illustrate a fundamental dilemma faced by employers nationwide -- verifying employment in a manner that ensures employees are eligible to work in the United States, while also protecting the civil rights of foreign-born people."

As one such example, in 2002 Swift settled a complaint that it was profiling Hispanics at one of its plants by asking job applicants for additional documentation. "If an employer accepts documents that turn out to be fraudulent, they may face federal penalties," AMI pointed out. "If an employer questions documents that are legitimate, the employer can face civil rights charges."

The raids on Swift were "just today's" actions, said an ICE spokesperson. Further steps may be taken against other companies in the near future.

Source: Meatingplace.com