Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided a Salem meat supplier plant Tuesday afternoon, arresting over 100 employees.
The three buses carrying them left the Fresh Mark plant on S. Lincoln Avenue around 7:30 p.m.
Earlier, employees in white smocks were led out of the facility. At one point, a helicopter was flying overhead — perhaps to stop anyone from escaping.
ICE agents moved about on the property. Police denied trucks entry. Some of the drivers just parked along the side of the road and waited.
Sources said local authorities helped ICE with the raid.
Those who were arrested will be held in facilities in Michigan and Ohio while awaiting removal proceedings.
Some of their family members showed up crying. On Tuesday, Sister Rene Weeks, who administers to Salem’s Hispanic population at St. Paul Catholic Church, comforted them.
“My concern, basically, is just what’s going to happen to them at this moment because it’s unknown,” she said.
Sister Rene said most of the immigrants in the Salem area are from Guatemala.
“They’re here trying to make a better life for their families. Most of them are probably Guatemalan. Many of them have fled situations of horrific violence in their own countries.”
One woman showed up with four children, saying her husband worked in the plant. One of the young girls was visibly upset and a sheriff’s deputy guarding the gate took time to comfort her.
Don Little, of Salem, said he called Homeland Security a year ago to complain about what was happening at Fresh Mark.
“We’ve got a president in office who’s going to do something about it finally and now some things are going to get done around here.”
ICE also raided Fresh Mark plants in Canton and Massillon. They said it was part of a year-long investigation.
According to an ICE press release, businesses that knowingly harbor and hire undocumented immigrants as a business model must be held accountable for their actions.
ICE did not say if Fresh Mark would be charged.
The company said they were the first in Ohio to partner with ICE in the voluntary IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers) program, which Fresh Mark said ensures a lawful workforce.
They said to qualify for the program, companies must participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal Form I-9 audits at least once a year and submit to a Form I-9 inspection.
Fresh Mark’s website says it supplies American-made bacon, ham, hot dogs and deli meats.