It has happened at slaughterhouses run by Smithfield Foods, Swift and Agriprocessors.
Now U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has swooped down on Southeastern Provision, a cattle slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee.
On April 5, with helicopters chopping overhead, 97 workers, mostly Hispanic, were detained by ICA. That left a workforce of only three. According to an article in the New Yorker, 32 of the detainees were released the same day, 54 were kept in detention and 10 were arrested for defying previous deportation orders.
Original news reports about the raid stressed the immigration detentions. But it was soon learned that the raid, conducted jointly by ICE and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), was triggered by suspicious cash withdrawals by the slaughterhouse owners. The millions in withdrawals were allegedly used to pay workers in cash in order to avoid paying payroll taxes. The owners of the slaughterhouse operation owe at least $2.5 million in back payroll taxes, according to federal authorities.
But the raid led to other revelations, including evidence that Southeastern Provision's undocumented workers were handling harsh chemicals without proper eye protection, and were not paid extra for overtime. Some earned only $6 an hour.