The Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at a Fresh Mark plant in Salem, southwest of Youngstown, was part of a year-long, ongoing Homeland Security investigation into whether the company may have knowingly hired undocumented immigrants.
Sister Rene Weeks is director of Hispanic ministry for St. Paul Catholic Church, down the street from the plant. About 45 families at her church were affected by the raid. She says, in an ideal world, there would be comprehensive immigration reform to help the people who are being detained.
“We keep hearing that these immigrants are stealing jobs. Yet Fresh Mark for months has had a sign in front of the business – still there, I’m sure – that says ‘we’re hiring; come and apply.’ So if they’re stealing the jobs, why is Fresh Mark needing employees?”
Weeks says immigration attorneys were at the church following the raid to work with families. Church officials also provided meals for children who were known to be home alone, and transported them to stay with other families.
ICE did not respond to requests for comment.
Last December, a worker from Guatemala was killed at a Fresh Mark plant. It was later determined Samuel Martinez was in the U.S. illegally.
After ICE raided the Salem plant, it served search warrants on Fresh Mark's Canton and Massillon locations.
- 1888 South way Street, SW Massillon
- 950 Cloverleaf Street, SW, Massillon
- 1600 Harmont Ave NE, Canton
A statement from ICE quoted Steve Francis, special agent in charge for Michigan and Ohio, saying: "Unlawful employment is one of the key magnets drawing illegal aliens across our borders. ... Businesses who knowingly harbor and hire illegal aliens as a business model must be held accountable for their actions."
Fresh Mark is a member in ICE’s IMAGE program, which stands for ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers. The statement says, "IMAGE members are not immune from ICE scrutiny or prosecution for workforce compliance violations."
Here's part of a statement from Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union representing workers at Fresh Mark:
- "We are outraged by the actions of Donald Trump. 140 people couldn't go home to their families last night, and their children were left on their own to fend for themselves – that is unconscionable. Yesterday, Donald Trump sent in ICE agents to separate hard working immigrant families in an egregious show of force. Our union is a union of hard working people, which includes immigrants; and we stand with all immigrant workers, who are trying to support their families and better their lives."