Officials from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security raided six pork and beef processing facilities belonging to HM Capital Partners’ portfolio company Swift & Company on Tuesday.
The raid, which resulted in the arrest of approximately 1,282 people total, was part of a government crackdown on “immigration violations”, particularly those involving identity theft, ICE said in a statement.
HM Capital, formerly Hicks Muse Tate & Furst Inc., teamed with Vail, Colorado-based Booth Creek Management Corporation, to acquire Swift, formerly known as ConAgra Meats Company, from ConAgra Foods, the maker of food products like Slim Jim, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM cooking spray, Chef Boyardee and Hebrew National. The transaction was valued at approximately $1.4 billion.
Tuesday’s raid involved Swift’s processing plants in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska, Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. “No civil or criminal charges have been filed against Swift or any current employees,” Swift said in a statement.
Though the facilities reduced its operation levels after the raids, worked resumed at full capacity at all six locations the next day, the company said in a separate statement. The six facilities involved in the raid account for 100 percent of the company’s beef output capacity and 77 percent of that for pork.
“This investigation has uncovered a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration,” Julie Myers, ICE’s assistant secretary, said in the statement. “We believe that the genuine identities of possibly hundreds of US citizens are being stolen or hijacked by criminal organizations and sold to illegal aliens in order to gain unlawful employment in this country. Combating this burgeoning problem is one of ICE’s highest priorities.”
According to ICE’s statement, the investigation, which began in February, found that undocumented immigrants used Social Security cards, birth certificates and other documents to assume the identities of actual US citizens. The immigrants obtained the documents from “criminal organizations”, members of which ICE agents have arrested in Minnesota, Texas, Utah and Puerto Rico. “In some cases, these organizations have stolen legitimate identity documents and Social Security cards from unwitting US citizens,” the statement said. “In other cases, they have purchased these documents from US citizens willing to sell their identities for money, including homeless people and individuals in jail.”
Those individuals arrested have been detained and are facing deportation proceedings, the ICE statement said. Sixty-five of the individuals are also facing criminal charges for identity theft and other crimes, including re-entry to the US after having been deported on a prior occasion.
Sam Rovit, Swift’s president and chief executive officer, defended his company’s hiring practice in a statement. “Swift has never condoned the employment of unauthorized workers, nor have we ever knowingly hired such individuals,” he said. He further noted that Swift requires its employees to note their immigration status on the papers they fill out for employment.
HM Capital did not return phone calls for comment.