More migrants caught crossing U.S.-Mexico border despite pandemic restrictions

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Border Patrol detained roughly 30,000 migrants attempting to cross the southwest border with Mexico in June, a 41% increase from the previous month, even as sweeping coronavirus-related border restrictions instituted by President Donald Trump remain in place.

Roughly nine in 10 of those caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in June were single adults, according to statistics released on Thursday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The number of single adults from Mexico detained at the border is on pace to rise this year, a shift away from arrests of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied children in 2019.

Trump, a Republican, faces reelection on Nov. 3 and has made his efforts to restrict illegal immigration – including the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border – a focus of his 2020 campaign. His presumptive Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, would end the diversion of billions of dollars in military funding for wall construction.

As the coronavirus spread across the United States in March, the Trump administration restricted non-essential travel across the borders with Mexico and Canada to contain the disease. At the same time, the administration put in place health-focused rules that allowed U.S. border authorities to rapidly expel migrants caught trying to cross illegally, arguing they could bring the virus into the United States.

The number of migrants caught by Border Patrol – particularly families and unaccompanied children – plummeted in April as the new measures went into effect and countries in the region initiated lockdowns.

Despite gradual increases seen both in May and June, the crossings still remain far below last year, when arrests peaked in May at 133,000.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington D.C.; Editing by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Daniel Wallis)

Trump weighs executive orders on China, manufacturing, immigration, aide says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is considering several executive orders targeting China, manufacturing and immigration, his chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters at the White House on Monday, though he offered few details.

“It’s dealing with a number of executive orders that may go all the way from dealing with some of the immigration issues that we have before us, to some of the manufacturing and jobs issues that are before us, and ultimately dealing with China, in what we need to do there in terms of resetting that balance,” Meadows said.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has tried to rescind a program that shields from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the United States illegally after entering as children – a group often called “Dreamers.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last month blocked Trump’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy put in place by former President Barack Obama, which protects roughly 649,000 immigrants from deportation.

Earlier on Fox News, Meadows said, “We’re going to look at a number of issues as it relates to prescription drug prices, and we’re going to get them done when Congress couldn’t get them done.”

It was not clear what any executive order on China or manufacturing would entail.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Zieminski)

Trump says he will suspend all immigration into U.S. over coronavirus

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday he will suspend all immigration into the United States temporarily through an executive order in response to the coronavirus outbreak and to protect American jobs.

The move, which the Republican president announced on Twitter, effectively achieves a long-term Trump policy goal to curb immigration, making use of the health and economic crisis that has swept the country as a result of the pandemic to do so.

The decision drew swift condemnation from some Democrats, who accused the president of creating a distraction from what they view as a slow and faulty response to the coronavirus.

Trump said he was taking the action to protect the U.S. workforce. Millions of Americans are suffering unemployment after companies shed employees amid nationwide lockdowns to stop the contagion.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States,” Trump said in a tweet.

The White House declined to offer further details about the reasoning behind the decision, its timing, or its legal basis.

“As our country battles the pandemic, as workers put their lives on the line, the President attacks immigrants & blames others for his own failures”, former Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar said in a tweet.

Immigration is largely halted into the United States anyway thanks to border restrictions and flight bans put in place as the virus spread across the globe.

But the issue remains an effective rallying cry for Trump’s supporters.

Trump won the White House in 2016 in part on a promise to curb immigration by building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. He and his advisers have spent the first three years of his tenure cracking down on both legal and illegal entries into the country. Crowds regularly chant “Build the Wall!” at Trump’s political rallies, which are now idled because of the virus.

Trump has lamented the economic fallout of the outbreak; his stewardship of the U.S. economy was set to be his key argument for re-election in November.

The U.S. death toll from the virus topped 42,000 on Monday, according to a Reuters tally.

The U.S. economy has come to a near standstill because of the pandemic; more than 22 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the last month.

“You cut off immigration, you crater our nation’s already weakened economy,” former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said in a tweet. “What a dumb move.”

The United States has the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 780,000 infections, up 27,000 on Monday.

But the president has made a point of saying the peak had passed and has been encouraging U.S. states to reopen their economies.

“It makes sense to protect opportunities for our workforce while this pandemic plays out,” said Thomas Homan, Trump’s former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “It’s really not about immigration. It’s about the pandemic and keeping our country safer while protecting opportunities for unemployed Americans.”

The United States in mid-March suspended all routine visa services, both immigrant and non-immigrant, in most countries worldwide due to the coronavirus outbreak in a move that has potentially impacted hundreds of thousands of people.

U.S. missions have continued to provide emergency visa services as resources allowed and a senior State Department official in late March said U.S. was ready work with people who were already identified as being eligible for various types of visas, including one for medical professionals.

The administration recently announced an easing of rules to allow in more agricultural workers on temporary H2A visas to help farmers with their crops.

(Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Trump says he will block U.S. funds to ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would withhold money from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions after a U.S. court ruled that his administration could block federal law enforcement funds to states and cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan granted the move on Feb. 26, but three other federal appeals courts have agreed to uphold an injunction against the withholding of such funds, setting up a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As per recent Federal Court ruling, the Federal Government will be withholding funds from Sanctuary Cities. They should change their status and go non-Sanctuary. Do not protect criminals!” Trump tweeted, although he gave no other details.

The 2nd Circuit overturned a lower court ruling directing the release of federal funds to New York City and the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. The states and city sued over a 2017 policy conditioning receipt of the funds by state and local governments on their giving federal immigration officials access to their jails, and advance notice when immigrants in the country illegally are being released from custody.

Three federal appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have upheld injunctions barring enforcement of at least some of the administration’s conditions on the funds. The latest ruling set up a possible battle at the U.S. Supreme Court, which often resolves legal disputes that divide lower courts.

The Republican president, who is seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 election, has taken a hardline stance toward legal and illegal immigration. His battle against Democratic-led “sanctuary” jurisdictions focuses on laws and policies making it harder for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to find and arrest immigrants they consider deportable.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. appeals court blocks Trump policy forcing migrants to wait in Mexico

By Mica Rosenberg

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday blocked a Trump administration policy that has forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico for months for hearings in U.S. immigration courts.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their argument that the program violated U.S. immigration law and international treaty obligations on the treatment of asylum seekers.

The program, which began a year ago and is called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), is one of the most dramatic immigration policy changes enacted by the Trump administration.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made cracking down on immigration a central theme of his more than three years in the White House, has sought through a series of new policies and rule changes to reduce asylum claims filed mostly by Central Americans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment but the administration is likely to quickly appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court as it has done with other rulings.

Some 59,000 people have been sent back to Mexico under the program, which started in San Diego before being expanded to other ports of entry all across the U.S-Mexico border. [L2N25W1G1] It was not immediately clear what would happen to people already in the program.

Migrants, many of them children, have faced violence and homelessness as they wait for their court dates in dangerous border cities. At least 1,000 people returned under the program were violently attacked or threatened in Mexico, according to a Feb 28 Human Rights Watch report that documented kidnappings, rapes and assaults.

The Trump administration argued the program did not violate a principle in international law known as non-refoulement, which says asylum seekers should not be returned to places where they face danger. The administration has said migrants could tell officials at any point in the process they had a fear of returning to Mexico.

But the panel concluded that plaintiffs in the case, which included 11 individual asylum seekers and several immigration advocacy groups, “had shown a likelihood of success on their claim that the MPP does not comply with the United States’ treaty-based non-refoulement obligations.”

The Trump administration has said most asylum petitions are ultimately denied by immigration courts and releasing migrants into the United States to wait for hearings encourages people to disappear into the country. Officials say forcing migrants to wait in Mexico is a way to cut down on fraudulent asylum claims.

In a separate ruling on Friday, the 9th Circuit left in place a lower court’s block on a Trump administration regulation that barred migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry from seeking asylum.

A three-judge panel in that case found the regulation – issued in November 2018 and swiftly enjoined by a federal judge in the Northern District of California – conflicted with federal immigration statutes that govern asylum and amounted to “a categorical ban” on certain asylum seekers.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Ted Hesson in Washington and Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)

Caravan of hundreds of Central Americans moves into Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Hundreds of Central Americans crossed the Guatemalan border into Mexico early on Thursday, testing the Mexican government’s resolve to stem the movement of people north under pressure from the United States.

Television footage showed a caravan of migrants moving towards the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, after crossing the Suchiate River that divides Mexico and Guatemala.

Most want to reach the United States. However, U.S. President Donald Trump has put pressure on the Mexican government to adopt more restrictive measures to reduce the migrant flows.

Many of the Central Americans migrants heading north are fleeing economic hardship and violence at home.

Migrants, mainly from Central America, marching in a caravan cross the Suchiate river on the outskirts of Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

The current group of migrants is the largest surge of people to test Mexico since its president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and some Central American governments, made various agreements with Trump to reduce pressure on the U.S. southern border.

Trump has threatened to punish Mexico and Central American nations economically if they fail to address the migrant flows.

Migrants crossing into Mexico earlier this week faced tear gas from security forces, who delivered a firmer response than in previous mass crossings of the border.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said several hundred of the new arrivals were immediately deported.

(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Border arrests hit 11-year high, U.S. seeks to expedite deportations

Border arrests hit 11-year high, U.S. seeks to expedite deportations
By Julio-Cesar Chavez

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – Immigration arrests at the U.S. border with Mexico soared 88 percent in fiscal 2019 in what U.S. officials on Tuesday labeled a crisis while unveiling their latest measure to combat the trend: expediting the deportation of asylum seekers.

The number of people apprehended or turned away at the border actually fell in September to the lowest monthly total of the year, to 52,546, down 64% from a peak in May as migration typically slows during the hot summer months.

But the total still rose 4% over the same month a year ago, and border arrests for the fiscal year ending in September reached an 11-year high. Southern border apprehensions and rejections combined totaled 977,509.

Nearly half all those detained in September were children or families, many of them led by human-trafficking cartels, said Robert Perez, deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“They are profiting on the backs of this vulnerable population, and that’s why it’s still a crisis,” Perez told an outdoor news conference, standing before CBP personnel at the border barrier in El Paso.

Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said the average 1,400 people apprehended each day underscored a security risk.

President Donald Trump has made restricting immigration a centerpiece of his first term and his 2020 re-election campaign, and U.S. officials and immigrant advocates alike say his policies and cooperation from Mexico have contributed to four straight months of declining arrests.

While Trump’s supporters cheer his crackdown on illegal border-crossings, critics have attacked his policies as cruel, resulting in overcrowded detention facilities and the separation of children from their parents.

U.S. policy has targeted asylum seekers, most of them from the impoverished and violent Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Now U.S. officials say they hope to speed up the processing of some asylum claims to just a few days, compared to the months or years it takes currently, in a shift that has raised concerns over due-process rights.

Morgan and Perez confirmed they launched a pilot program in El Paso earlier this month, the Prompt Asylum Claim Review, first reported by the Washington Post last week.

“The objective is within that same handful of days … to get people through an immigration process as quickly as we possibly can, so that a judge, hopefully, makes a decision,” Perez said.

Some immigration attorneys say they have yet to receive notification of the program, and that clients were placed in it without their knowledge.Attorneys also said they had only been given telephone access to clients.

U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, raised “pressing concerns” in a letter to Morgan after her staff received an informal Border Patrol briefing.

Migrants in custody would have 24 hours to contact an immigration lawyer, she said, and would be swiftly given an interview with an immigration officer to determine if they had a credible fear of persecution back home. If rejected, migrants could appeal through a phone interview with an immigration judge, Escobar said.

(Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bernadette Baum, David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)

Gunman kills two in livestreamed attack at German synagogue

By Thomas Escritt and Stephan Schepers

BERLIN/HALLE, Germany (Reuters) – A gunman who denounced Jews opened fire outside a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, and killed two people as he livestreamed his attack.

Several German media outlets said the perpetrator acted alone on Wednesday in the eastern German city of Halle. He fatally shot a woman outside the synagogue and a man inside a nearby kebab shop.

Two other people were seriously injured, but regional broadcaster MDR said their condition was not critical.

Police said they had detained one person, reported by German magazines Spiegel and Focus Online to be a 27-year-old German named Stephan B. His full name cannot be published under German privacy laws.

Video broadcast on Amazon’s gaming subsidiary Twitch showed a young man with a shaven head first reciting a short statement in broken English while sitting in a parked car.

“I think the Holocaust never happened,” he began, before adding “feminism is the cause of decline in birth rates in the West” and mentioning mass immigration. He concluded: “The root of all these problems is the Jew”, before embarking on his shooting spree.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said Twitch “worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

The company later said its investigation suggested that “people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services,” but did not elaborate.

Reuters found copies and links to the footage posted on Twitter, 4chan and message boards focused on trolling and harassment, as well as multiple white supremacist channels on messaging app Telegram.

In the video, the man drove to the synagogue, found the gates shut and unsuccessfully sought to force the gates open. He then shot several rounds at a woman passerby.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

“We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police,” he said, adding that about 70 to 80 people were inside the synagogue observing Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement which is marked by fasting and solemn prayer.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, without citing its source, that when he was detained the suspect had a wound to the neck and that security authorities suspected he had attempted suicide.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government voiced outrage over the attack on Yom Kippur and urged tougher action against anti-Semitic violence.

Merkel visited a Berlin synagogue as around 200 people, some holding Israeli flags and candles, held a vigil outside. Merkel’s spokesman tweeted: “We must oppose any form of anti-Semitism.”

‘CALM, LIKE A PROFESSIONAL’

Rifat Tekin, who worked at the Halle kebab outlet, said he was making a kebab for two construction workers when a perpetrator threw an explosive at the restaurant before shooting.

“He was very calm, like a professional,” Tekin told n-tv television. “He didn’t say anything. He just kept coming and shooting … I was hiding behind the salad counter.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the victims’ families and said in a Twitter post: “The terrorist attack against the community in Halle in Germany on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our nation, is yet another expression that anti-Semitism is growing in Europe.”

“I call upon the authorities in Germany to continue to work determinedly against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, which during World War Two was responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Around 200,000 Jews live today in the country of around 83 million people.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the shooting was anti-Semitic, adding: “According to the federal prosecutors’ office, there are enough indications that it was possibly a right-wing extremist motive.”

Despite comprehensive de-Nazification in the post-war era, fears of resurgent anti-Semitic hatred have never completely gone away, whether from fringe, far-right neo-Nazis or more recently from Muslim immigrants.

Occasional past attacks have ranged from the scrawling of Nazi swastikas on gravestones to firebombings at synagogues and even several murders. In recent years, cases of assault or verbal abuse, in some cases directed against people wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps, have raised an outcry.

(Additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Joseph Nasr, Thomas Escritt, Riham Alkousaa, Gabi Sajonz-Grimm, Michelle Martin, Elizabeth Culliford, Katie Paul and Stephen Farrell; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Cynthia Osterman and Tom Brown)

Exclusive: Brazil facilitates deportation of its nationals after U.S. pressure

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil is making it easier for the United States to deport undocumented Brazilians by asking U.S. airlines to board deportees even when they have no valid passports, following pressure from the Trump administration, three Brazilian government sources said.

The Federal Police sent airlines a memo in June allowing them to board Brazilian deportees with just a certificate of nationality issued by a consulate if they lack a valid passport, previously needed to travel to Brazil, the sources said.

The move by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s government aims to facilitate repatriation of deportees by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and efforts by the Trump administration to speed the removal of undocumented immigrants.

The officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Brazil has come under increasing pressure from the Trump administration to facilitate deportations of its detained nationals, to the point of risking sanctions.

They did not detail what kind of sanctions.

“When Donald Trump became U.S. president, illegal immigration became a central political issue. Pressure increased a lot and Brazil was even threatened with sanctions,” one of the sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Brazil was labeled as “at risk of non-compliance” with the repatriation of deportees in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report in March on the barriers ICE faces to timely removal of detained immigrants.

Trump has been cracking down on recalcitrant countries that do not accept immigrants ordered deported, under an executive order issued immediately after he took office.

The deportation of undocumented Brazilians has risen from 1,413 in fiscal year 2017 to 1,691 in fiscal 2018, with Brazilians the sixth-largest group of nationals being removed from the United States, according to ICE data.

This fiscal year there have been 1,117 removals of Brazilians through June 10, ICE said. The U.S. fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that certificates of nationality are issued by its consulates in the United States when detained deportees have exhausted their appeals process and have no passport. Brazilian passports are issued only to nationals who apply for them.

Many countries have arrangements with the U.S. government and foreign countries that allow for a document – other than a passport – issued by an embassy or consulate to serve as an authorization to travel.

Delta Airlines and American Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.

As of December, there were 334 Brazilians in ICE detention awaiting trial or deportation, the ministry said.

Since he took office in January, Bolsonaro has established close ties with Trump and the two are looking to negotiate a trade agreement.

Bolsonaro has made disparaging statements about immigrants. In March, speaking on Fox News during a visit to Washington, he praised Trump’s plan for a wall on the Mexican border, adding that “most immigrants do not have good intentions.”

His son Eduardo Bolsonaro, whom he has nominated to be Brazil’s ambassador in Washington, told reporters during that visit that illegal Brazilian immigrants were “a problem for Brazil, an embarrassment to us.”

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassú; additional reporting and writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Dan Grebler)

Allegations of labor abuses dogged Mississippi plant years before immigration raids

FILE PHOTO: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) look on after executing search warrants and making arrests at an agricultural processing facility in Canton, Mississippi, U.S. in this August 7, 2019 handout photo. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

By Mica Rosenberg and Kristina Cooke

(Reuters) – Long before U.S. immigration authorities arrested 680 people at agricultural processing facilities in Mississippi this week, one of the five targeted companies faced allegations of serious labor violations including intimidation, harassment and exploitation of its largely immigrant work force, according to a federal lawsuit.

Last August, Illinois-based poultry supplier Koch Foods settled a multi-year lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of more than 100 workers at the Morton, Mississippi, plant over claims the company knew – or should have known – of sexual and physical assaults against its Hispanic workers.

The workers’ complaints spanned 2004 to 2008, when the plant employed more than 500 people. They allege that a manager would grope women from behind while they were working, punch employees and throw chicken parts at them. Workers also alleged that supervisors coerced payments from them for everything from medical leave and promotions to bathroom breaks.

Privately-held Koch Foods, run by billionaire Joseph Grendys, did not respond to requests for comment. In court filings, the company called the claims of abuse and harassment “baffling” and “outrageous.” Koch said the plaintiffs made claims against the company as a means to obtain U.S. visas for crime victims who collaborate with law enforcement, according to the court documents.

The company settled the allegations last year by paying a $3.75 million and entering into a three-year consent decree to prevent future violations. It agreed to implement new policies such as creating a 24-hour complaint hot line and publicly posting anti-discrimination policies, according to the EEOC.

Some workers at the Mississippi plant who lacked legal immigration status alleged in court documents that supervisors threatened to turn them in to authorities if they spoke out about their concerns, according to the EEOC complaint.

Former federal officials and immigration attorneys said mass deportation operations like the ones conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday in Mississippi can have a chilling effect on future labor complaints.

“If workers are being threatened with being turned over to ICE, and then here comes ICE and arrests workers,” people could be more reluctant to speak up, said John Sandweg, a former acting ICE director during the Obama administration.

In the EEOC lawsuit, one Koch Foods employee without legal immigration status alleged that a manager sexually harassed his wife and made him pay to use the bathroom, once waiting until he had soiled himself to give him permission to leave his spot on the production line.

“If he found out that I had talked about anything that he was doing, charging money, the way he mistreated us, the dirty words he used, he told me that if I went to complain in the office that he had contacts in immigration,” the worker said in a 2012 deposition that was filed as part of the suit. “And that he knew where I lived.”

Maria Cazorla, a Cuban immigrant and lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the company that was wrapped into the EEOC case, said in an interview Thursday that a manager inappropriately touched her and hit her then-husband, also a co-worker, in the ribs while he was working.

According to Cazorla’s interview and court documents, her husband at the time was targeted by management and fired over his immigration status after she filed her lawsuit against the company in 2010. Cazorla, now a U.S. citizen, left the company and Mississippi and now renovates houses in Florida.

Even after the manager accused of some of the most serious violations was fired in 2008, workers continued to be subjected to threats of violence and reprisals in the workplace, the lawsuit said.

The EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws and can investigate employee complaints. The agency tries to settle the claims but, if unsuccessful, it can file a lawsuit against employers for workplace discrimination.

Marsha Rucker, EEOC Regional Attorney based in Birmingham, Alabama who oversaw the lawsuit, said she did not believe the EEOC’s civil complaint was connected to the ICE action this week.

SCENES OF MASS ARRESTS

The dramatic operation on Wednesday was the biggest workplace immigration sweep since December 2006, when ICE targeted meatpacking plants in six states and arrested almost 1,300 people.

Some children of workers were left traumatized by their parents’ detention on what was for many the first day of school, according to local media reports.

“Government, please,” an 11-year-old girl said on a CBS News segment, weeping in front of a community center where she and other children were sent to spend the night. “My dad didn’t do nothing. He’s not a criminal.”

ICE officials told reporters on a call on Thursday that they had released 303 people for humanitarian reasons – if they were pregnant or a primary caretaker of children, for example. Among those released pending a hearing before an immigration judge were 18 “juveniles” who had been working in the plants, ICE said, including one 14-year-old.

Koch Foods has been the target of worksite enforcement in the past.

In August 2007, immigration agents arrested more than 160 employees of a Koch Foods chicken plant in Fairfield, Ohio, and paid about a half-million dollars in fines. At the time, ICE said Koch Foods was being investigated for federal crimes including encouraging, inducing or harboring immigrants in the United States illegally.

The company, which according to its website is not affiliated with Koch Industries or the Koch brothers, started with 13 employees deboning and cutting up chicken in one room in 1985. It now counts more than 13,000 employees and bills itself as one of the biggest poultry processors in the United States, with facilities in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois as well as Mississippi.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, who has made cracking down on immigration a centerpiece of his administration, the National Chicken Council – a lobbying group – said the poultry industry “uses every tool available to verify the identify and legal immigration status of all prospective employees” but said there was no government system available to “confirm with confidence that new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States.”

(Mica Rosenberg reported from New York and Kristina Cooke from San Francisco; Editing by Julie Marquis and Marla Dickerson)