‘Cruelty knows no bounds’: Trump condemned after 680 detained in largest ICE raids of his presidency

Zamira Rahim

Donald Trump has been condemned by Democrats after immigration officials carried out the largest workplace raids of his presidency.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained 680 workers at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants on Wednesday.

Matthew Albence, the agency’s acting director, described the operation as “racially neutral” and based on evidence of illegal residency.

Most of the detained staff were Latino.

Their arrests came on the same day the president visited El Paso, following a massacre there by a gunman who allegedly posted an anti-immigrant screed before the attack.

The document claimed the shooting was a response to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

“Only days after a massacre committed with the express purpose of targeting immigrants, Trump conducted the largest raid of his presidency,” said Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential primary candidate.

“680 human beings arrested, including the mother of a 13-year-old, who waved goodbye as she was taken from him. The cruelty knows no bounds.”

The child Mr O’Rourke referred to was caught up in a raid at a Koch Foods plant in Morton, east of the city of Jackson.

He reportedly waved goodbye to his mother, who is from Guatemala, while standing beside his father.

“On a day when President Trump is supposed to be embracing a grieving community and celebrating our American diversity in El Paso, his administration is instead stoking fear by conducting massive immigration raids in Mississippi,” said Joe Biden, the former vice-president.

“He is morally unfit to lead this country.”

The raids were “the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in [US] history,” according to Mike Hurst, US attorney for the southern district of Mississippi.

Staff at meat processing plants are frequent targets for ICE officers.

In December 2006 officials arrested 1,282 people in raids at Swift & Company plants across six different states.

And in 2008 ICE conducted the Postville raid, which saw 389 people arrested at one northern Iowa meat processing plant.

The Postville operation remains the largest single-workplace raid in US history, according to NBC News.

The timing of the Mississippi raids has triggered further anger against the president, who is facing increasing pressure over his rhetoric.

“This is a long-term operation that’s been going on,” Mr Albence said, when asked about the raid coinciding with the El Paso visit.

“Trump uses dehumanizing terms like ‘invasion’ to justify an agenda that separates families and targets communities like Morton, Mississippi,” said Julian Castro, a Democratic presidential primary candidate.

“It’s time to break up ICE.”

Additional reporting by agencies