ALMA (AP) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has detained at least two dozen people suspected of living in the country illegally after raiding a northwestern Arkansas food-processing plant.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents served a search warrant Wednesday morning at the Bryant Preserving Co. in Alma. The warrant was for an existing criminal investigation, but ICE spokesman Bryan Cox wouldn't provide further detail.
Agents took into custody more than two dozen people suspected of living in the U.S. illegally. Cox said Wednesday that he doesn't have a specific number of detained employees because some were still being processed and others had since been released.
"If there is some violation of federal immigration law, we do not turn a blind eye," he said.
Bryant Preserving employs between 45 and 65 people, according to company President Phillip Bryant. The canning company released a statement saying it's not a subject of the investigation.
"We follow all mandated verification producers and also use EVerify, a federal web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States," the statement said.
About 20 of the employees who ICE took in were women, said Mary Medina, a volunteer for Arkansas United, an immigration advocacy group.
"At this moment, their kids are coming home," Medina said Wednesday afternoon. "They are probably coming home to an empty home."
Medina said Arkansas United will make sure the detained employees get proper legal representation.
"It's their community," she said. "The River Valley community has been affected by this."
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Arkansas declined to comment on the raid.