Deacon Cesar Sanchez speaks with Sacred Heart Catholic Church Latino parishioners following the Spanish Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Canton on Sunday, Aug. 11. Although Sanchez is assigned to a neighboring parish, he sometimes assists the pastor in tending to those who speak little English. Churches have been key to providing spiritual and emotional comfort to workers following immigration raids at seven Mississippi poultry plants, including one in Canton, and are now stepping up to provide material aid to jailed or out-of-work church members, even as some church leaders denounce the raids that Republican leaders of the conservative state have applauded. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Deacon Cesar Sanchez speaks with Sacred Heart Catholic Church Latino parishioners following the Spanish Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Canton on Sunday, Aug. 11. Although Sanchez is assigned to a neighboring parish, he sometimes assists the pastor in tending to those who speak little English. Churches have been key to providing spiritual and emotional comfort to workers following immigration raids at seven Mississippi poultry plants, including one in Canton, and are now stepping up to provide material aid to jailed or out-of-work church members, even as some church leaders denounce the raids that Republican leaders of the conservative state have applauded. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Stolen Social Security numbers were being used by many of the illegals rounded up last week in the largest immigration raid in a decade, unsealed court affidavits obtained by the Journal reveal.

The stolen identities were being used to gain employment and evade detection, federal officials said.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement working in concert with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi detained 680 people last week after serving administrative and criminal search warrants at seven chicken processing plants in six Mississippi towns, including Canton.



At the Peco Foods plant at 1039 W. Fulton St. in Canton, approximately 150 were detained last Wednesday. Peco Foods in Walnut Grove, Pearl River Foods in Carthage, Koch Foods in Morton, A&B Inc. in Pelahatchie, PH Food Inc. in Morton, and Peco Foods in Bay Springs were also targeted. 

Mike Hurst, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, said the execution of last Wednesday’s search warrants was a culmination of a year-long investigation. 

According to court affidavits, ICE had approximately 222 historical encounters and/or arrests with illegal aliens at Peco Foods between November 2002 and June 2019. 

Despite arguments on the national and local stages that the illegal immigrants detained were committing “victimless” crimes, the affidavits paint a much different picture. 

The affidavits state that illegal immigrants were purchasing fake identification ranging from $200 up to $1,000 in some cases. The stolen information, in some instances, included social security numbers of deceased people. 

On June 3, one woman told investigators that she was denied unemployment benefits because the government thought she was employed at Pearl River Foods after her identity was stolen, court filings reveal.

Other people whose identities had been stolen were denied food stamps and other government benefits because their social security numbers showed them working in chicken factories in Mississippi. 

Despite other reports throughout the past week that there were some children who were still separated from their parents, Hurst maintains that at least one parent was released last Wednesday to ensure that households with children present had a parent. 

Approximately 30 detained aliens were released on-site where they were arrested on humanitarian grounds, officials said, and another 270 were sent home later that evening after being processed at the National Guard base in Pearl. 

After processing, they were given notices to appear before immigration judges for a hearing at a later date.

The other 380 people were transported to Jena, La., to an immigration detention center pending hearings before immigration judges. 

On Monday, Hurst responded to vocal critics of the arrest on SuperTalk Mississippi, particularly those upset about tearing apart families. 

“I am so grateful our churches, our nonprofits are stepping up to help these kids whose parents decided to commit violations of federal law,” he said. 

He said he hoped that generosity would extend to help all children whose parents commit crimes, saying there are over 4,800 children in foster care in part because their parents committed crimes. 

“We’ve got to stand up for all children and all families whose family members are involved in criminal activity,” he said. “I hope this wakes folks up.” 

Hurst said people shouldn’t be selective about which crimes should merit communities coming together for children affected by crime. 

Over the weekend, a small protest was held on the grounds of the historic courthouse in Canton as one of many rallies across the communities hit by ICE. 

The Rev. Mike O'Brien, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Canton, told the Associated Press last week that he waited outside the Peco Foods plant in the city until 4 a.m. Thursday for workers returning by bus. 

O’Brien said he visited parishioners whose relatives had been arrested and that he even drove home someone who had hidden from authorities inside the plant.

“The people are all afraid,” he said. “Their doors are locked, and they won’t answer their doors.”

None of the employers were arrested last week, but Hurst said a criminal investigation is ongoing and he could not comment further.

Computer hard drives and files were among the evidence taken by investigators. 

The companies could be charged with knowingly hiring illegal aliens, officials said.  

Hurst has prosecuted a number of business owners in the past for knowingly hiring illegal aliens. 

As an assistant U.S. Attorney, Hurst prosecuted Paul Love of Ridgeland for harboring illegal aliens at his business, Love Irrigation, Inc., back in 2012.

Love was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and agreed to pay over $515,000 in fines. 

Barbara Love, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation and was forced to pay a $15,000 fine.

Earlier this year, Hurst prosecuted the owner of the China Buffet II in Meridian for harboring undocumented workers at the restaurant. 

Cheng Lin of Meridian was sentenced to one year in federal prison. Lin’s father, Guo Guang Lin of Brooklyn, N.Y., and his wife, Yang Fei Tang, an undocumented immigrant from China, each received six months in prison followed by six months of house arrest.  The restaurant was also hit with a $200,000 fine.