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story.lead_photo.caption An attendee at the House Homeland Security Committee field hearing at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., holds a sign written in English and Spanish, stating "Let US work" Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. The hearing concerned the Aug. 7, 2019 ICE raids throughout Mississippi which resulted in nearly 700 workers being arrested at seven chicken processing plants. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. -- It's "disappointing" that President Donald Trump's administration is vigorously apprehending workers who are in the U.S. illegally but not prosecuting employers, a U.S. House committee chairman said Thursday.

Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and House Homeland Security Committee chairman, made the criticism during a hearing about federal immigration raids in August at seven Mississippi chicken-processing plants where agents arrested 680 mostly Guatemalan workers.

"Not one employer or person from management has been arrested," Thompson said. "In fact, prosecutions of companies who hire undocumented workers have declined compared to the previous administration's numbers. The selective way the administration is enforcing our laws is disappointing."

Mike Hurst, chief federal prosecutor for the southern half of Mississippi, said Thursday that 119 people have been indicted after the raid and 47 have pleaded guilty so far. Of those, Hurst said 26 have pleaded guilty to fraudulently using a Social Security number, while 21 others have pleaded guilty to illegally re-entering the United States after previously being deported. The rest face some combination of those charges.

Jere Miles, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, pleaded for patience, saying agents are examining 850,000 documents and 61 digital devices to build cases.

"We're not satisfied with going after the low-level people, but as I'm sure you all understand, it is a lengthy process," Miles testified.

The Democrats called the arrests unnecessary, inhumane and demeaning, with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee saying she would push for a law against separating parents and children because of immigration enforcement.

Witnesses said federal agents failed to coordinate with local authorities to make sure children wouldn't return home to empty houses, saying children remain traumatized, especially because many parents are still in detention.

Miles called it an "oversight" that some school districts weren't contacted, and told reporters later that "I think that there are lessons that need to be learned." But he also pushed back against the idea that people who violate immigration laws should be treated differently from other criminals.

"Like anyone who gets arrested for a crime in the United States, they can't go home," Miles testified.

Business on 11/08/2019

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