SW Missouri poultry plant raid nets more than 100 suspected illegal workers

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Federal immigration agents raided a southwest Missouri poultry plant Tuesday morning and arrested more than 100 workers who are believed to be illegal immigrants.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement served a federal criminal search warrant at the George's processing plant in the rural town of Butterfield in Barry County, about 60 miles southwest of Springfield.

Pete Baird, assistant special agent in charge of the ICE investigations office in Kansas City, said most of those arrested were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

He said the arrests were part of a continuing probe into identity theft and false documents, including stolen Social Security numbers, allegedly used by illegal immigrants.

Three people pleaded guilty earlier this year to Social Security fraud, and one person has been indicted as part of the same investigation, Baird said.

"These worksite enforcement actions help reduce the job magnet that encourages aliens to enter the country illegally," Baird said.

The arrested workers are being taken to detention facilities in Kansas City, St. Louis and Wichita, Kan.

Baird said several workers were released because they are the sole caregiver of a child. They will be required to appear later for a court hearing, he said.

Immigration agents, with assistance from U.S. marshals and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, entered the plant around 9 a.m. and rounded up the workers to check their identities and documents.

The plant manager's office referred reporters to corporate headquarters in Springdale, Ark., for comment. A spokesman at George's Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

ICE spokesman Tim Counts said no charges have been filed against George's and declined to say whether the company knew it was hiring illegal aliens.

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