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A raid by federal immigration officials at a factory in Laurel, Mississippi, early this week that ended in the arrest of nearly 600 immigrant workers has left both a community and a business in confusion. In today's Washington Post, we learned that the business where the immigrant workers were employed was using the government's latest system for verifying the status of prospective employees. Howard Industries was using the E Verify system that is supposed to determine a person's eligibility to work. Firms now complain that the federal system provides them with no protection.
The raid was the largest in U.S. history. After the arrests, immigrant families kept their children home from school. (The AP reported that half of the local school district's Hispanic students stayed home the day after the crackdown.) Most of those arrested Monday were sent to a holding facility in Jena, Louisiana, splitting husbands from their families.
The raid resulted from a two year federal investigation. The AP reported that a local union member tipped off federal officials about Howard's hiring practices and that there have been tensions between local union officials and immigrant workers.