ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
It's being called the biggest immigration raid in at least 10 years. Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, arrested almost 700 people today at agricultural processing plants in Mississippi. Ezra Wall of Mississippi Public Broadcasting is covering the story and joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
EZRA WALL, BYLINE: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: First, just give us a sense of how big these raids were. It's being called one of the largest mass arrests in recent memory.
WALL: Yeah. We haven't seen anything like this in Mississippi for years. Mike Hurst is the U.S. attorney here. He called the raids the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation's history. It took place at seven different agricultural processing plants - basically, chicken plants - in six different Mississippi communities. In total, around 680 people were arrested, and none of those were U.S. citizens.
SHAPIRO: And what else have authorities said about this operation?
WALL: Not a whole lot, really. ICE acting Director Matt Albence was here in Mississippi today. He didn't answer most of the questions that we posed to him, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. He did confirm none of the people arrested claimed U.S. citizenship. Mike Hurst spoke. He's the U.S. attorney that I mentioned before. And he said as a nation of immigrants, we also need to remember that America is a nation of laws.
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MIKE HURST: Without law, there is no order. Without the enforcement of law, there is no justice. Today, through the hard work these men and women in law enforcement, we are once again becoming a nation of law and order. And we will continue to ensure that justice is done.
SHAPIRO: What about the people who were arrested? Have you heard from family members or lawyers for them?
WALL: I talked to Bill Chandler, who's the executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. And he says his organization has been in contact with families throughout the day. And he said he even got some cell phone calls from people who were being arrested before the period where their cell phones had been taken away. Of course, family members are, obviously, concerned about how to get information about their loved ones. They're concerned especially about what's going to happen to children whose parents might be detained. And children need a place to go, or they may need help understanding what's happening in their lives. Here's Bill Chandler, the director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, talking about his feelings about today's actions.
BILL CHANDLER: This raid is an act of terrorism against Latino communities throughout Mississippi. And you know people are very scared. We've been trying to help people with Know Your Rights presentations consistently over the years, and so we hope that workers will be able to respond in a dignified way to this act against their rights.
WALL: Meanwhile, Matt Albence, the interim director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that this is just, quote, "another step in the investigative process that's been going on for a year." He wouldn't give any further specifics, including whether company leaders or management would be under investigation.
SHAPIRO: Ezra Wall of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, thank you.
WALL: Good to be with you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.