In 2019, federal immigration authorities carried out the largest worksite raid in U.S. history. The fallout continues.
In August 2019, federal immigration authorities carried out the largest worksite enforcement operation in U.S. history, detaining 680 undocumented workers employed at poultry plants in central Mississippi. The fallout from the immigration raids continues to unfold. On June 14, Salvador Delgado-Nieves pleaded guilty to a single charge of harboring an immigrant unauthorized to be in the United States. Delgado-Nieves was a manager for Southern Knights Industrial Services, a staffing agency that provided undocumented employees to the A&B poultry processing plant in Pelahatchie. Delgado-Nieves was first indicted on multiple charges in February 2020 along with other members of the staffing agency and poultry plant executives. It is illegal to knowingly employ people without authorization to work in the U.S., but the consequences usually fall on undocumented workers—though the poultry industry has gone to great lengths to recruit this workforce. In 1994, a chicken plant in Morton, Mississippi, launched its “Hispanic Project,” which entailed traveling to Florida to recruit nearly 5,000 immigrants to work at plants in two Mississippi towns. After the immigration raids in 2019, cultural anthropologist Angela Stuesse delved into this history for The Washington Post, writing that the prominence of Latinos in Mississippi’s chicken plants is not accidental. “It was calculated, strategic and intimately related to deeply rooted structures of labor exploitation in the region,” wrote the author of “Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South.”