The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency led a Tuesday raid that saw the arrest of more than 100 undocumented workers.
Officers reportedly detained well over 160 immigrants outside of Load Trail, a north Texas trailer manufacturer. The company has a questionable record, having once been charged of knowingly hiring illegal labor.
All of the workers taken into custody were swept up as ICE agents executed a criminal warrant at the Sumner, Texas, warehouse.
“I know I just heard helicopters everywhere and I saw a whole lot of people running and so I turned to run and the first corner I hit I got guns drawn on me,” one witness told ABC News.
The search, writes ABC, involved helicopters and more than 300 federal agents.
Katrina Berger, Homeland Security’s special-agent-in-charge of investigations, said federal law enforcement received a tip that Load Trail was hiring undocumented workers—including several who’d allegedly used falsified documents to obtain their positions.
“I knew these were illegals,” Berger said. “This is not the way we are supposed to be hiring.
“They told me to keep doing my job—that if they were visited by ICE again, they would simply pay the fine and go on.”
ABC says the search didn’t lead to any criminal charges being issued. However, there remains a possibility that prosecution could arise from the still-ongoing investigation. Berger called Load Trail one of the “fastest-growing trailer brands,” noting that the exploitation of illegal labor can skew the free market.
“We’re watching and we’re coming,” she said. “Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses.
“In addition,” she said, “they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere posed for exploiting their illegal workforce.”
Load Trail seems to have skirted past its last brush with the law largely intact. While the company paid close to a half-million dollars for “knowingly hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized workers” in 2014, the consequences were short-lived.
Both in 2014 and 2015, Load Trail received awards and commendations for being among the fastest-growing trailer brands in the nation.
Although ICE has yet to articulate a clear after-action plan, the government called the raid “one of the larger work site enforcement operations conducted at one site in the past 10 years.”
One witness, who spoke to the Dallas Morning News, said armed agents seemed to be around “every corner.”
“They drew their guns and told everyone to hit the ground,” said Dennis Perry, a Load Trail factory worker. He said some of his colleagues tried running but were tackled. Others tried to hide in equipment shelves and supply stacks; they were quickly uncovered by officers.