The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted the biggest ever workplace raid in recent years in Mississippi cities on Wednesday and arrested 680 people.
According to the agency's officials, the detained were undocumented immigrants. The raided workplaces included chicken and agricultural processing plants.
The crackdown came after a year-long investigation into illegal employment of immigrants in the state, officials said.
ICE sources called them "collateral" arrests implying more people were swept up along with those ICE had been seeking.
ICE acting director Matthew Albence said at a news conference that the arrested people will be prosecuted for crimes, some will be deported, and a few others may be released after immigration court hearings.
The ICE officials stepped up worksite enforcement since President Donald Trump took office, and had been conducting large-scale raids at food-processing plants and gardening centers.
The arrested were mostly Latino workers. The anger at illegal workers surfaced at the recent mass shooting in El Paso Texas that killed 22 people and the gunman screed about a "Hispanic" invasion in the U.S.
Matthew Albence, ICE's acting director, rejected the allegation that raids were timed to coincide with Trump's visit to El Paso.
On the allegation that the raid was spicing up the Trump news on El Paso's visit, Albence said: "This is a long-term operation that's been going on and raids are always "racially neutral" and illegal residency is the sole basis for action.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst also told reporters that longer planning went into the raids with "hard work of these men and women in law enforcement, we've set another record."
Immigrant workers important for the chicken industry
Mississippi is the fifth-largest chicken producing state in the U.S and the tough processing jobs are mainly filled by Latino immigrants who are eager to do any work.
The companies who hired illegal workers will be scrutinized for tax, document and wage fraud, Albence said.
Three poultry plants raided were owned by Peco Foods, in Canton and a fourth by Koch Foods, Morton.
Last year, the Trump administration raided a meatpacking plant in eastern Tennessee. Later the owner of the plant was sentenced to 18 months in prison for hiring illegal immigrants.
In Morton, 40 miles east off capital Jackson, workers filled three buses at a Koch Foods plant.
The arrested were taken to a military hangar for questioning on immigration violations.
A few workers tried to flee on foot but were captured from the factory premises.
There were many poignant scenes as the arrested were taken away.
A tearful 13-year-old boy was seen waving at his worker mother, as he stood beside his father.
A few other workers, who were able to show documents proving their legal status, were left off.
Meanwhile, the ICE immigration raids were slammed by Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance. Calling the raids "terrible" he said it was yet another effort to drive out Latinos from Mississippi.
Chandler accused Trump of fanning racism with his caustic comments about immigrants.
Workplace immigration raids had been common under President George W. Bush. However, President Barack Obama's regime avoided them barring a few local audits.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.