On Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided businesses in more than a dozen locations in Nebraska and Minnesota.
The raids, which targeted agricultural facilities, resulted in 133 arrests on immigration violations and included 17 search warrants executed for individuals accused of exploiting undocumented labor.
ICE claimed that employees knowingly took part in a criminal scheme to create an “illegal alien workforce” for those 17 individuals.
The agency also indicted each of those individuals and said it would place the workers in removal proceedings while they stayed in nearby facilities.
Watch some of the local coverage below:
According to ICE, the employers forced their employees to stay quiet about their activity, pay fees for cashing their paychecks, and forced them to deduct tax money from checks even though the government never received those funds.
ICE Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier issued a statement in which she derided the employers for taking advantage of immigrants:
“This HSI-led criminal investigation has shown that these targeted businesses were knowingly hiring illegal workers to unlawfully line their own pockets by cheating the workers, cheating the taxpayers, and cheating their business competitors.”
Despite the fact that these employers allegedly exploited immigrants as part of an illegal scheme, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska released a statement that described its state’s raids as an extension of the president’s “war on immigrants”:
The Trump administration’s war on immigrants was waged in Central Nebraska today. The ACLU condemns this ongoing campaign of misery that targets immigrants, disrupts local businesses and separates families. Immigrants enrich Nebraska communities in countless ways and are fulfilling an important role in our local economy.
The group added that it stood “in solidarity” with the business community and others in asking Congress to pass immigration reform.
ICE’s raids also prompted protests outside of a courthouse in at least one Nebraska town:
— Fred Knapp (@fredmknapp) August 8, 2018
The ACLU’s statement came as President Donald Trump’s administration fended off calls for ICE’s abolition, arguing that the agency was critical to protecting Americans against violent crime.
The president has also decried the impact immigrant labor had on wages and employment for U.S. citizens. According to Cormier, “the job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders.”
ICE is conducting raids in the O’Neill area. Know Your Rights. pic.twitter.com/Enrq0ZOXYw
— ACLU of Nebraska (@ACLUofNE) August 8, 2018
But for the ACLU, undocumented status appeared not to be a concern, as the group claimed the “Constitution protects immigrants too.”
The ACLU has been on the forefront of challenging Trump’s immigration policies and insisted that Trump had a constitutional obligation to provide due process for families separated at the southern border.
In New Jersey, the group also sued school districts for requiring parents to present state-issued identification in order to enroll their children.
That move, the ACLU said, violated the state constitution and discriminated against parents “who lack Social Security numbers or a valid immigration status.”