Federal immigrations agents conducted a major raid on a meat-packing plant in rural Tennessee Thursday afternoon, arresting 97 illegal alien workers, in what is being described as the largest raid on a single workplace in over a decade.

The raid reportedly occurred in Grainger County, Tennessee.

Tammy Spicer, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said of the 97 arrested, ten were arrested on federal criminal charges, one person was arrested on state charges and 86 immigrants were detained for being in the country illegally. All of those arrested were in the country illegally, she said. Most were from Mexico.

“HSI encountered 97 individuals who are subject to removal from the United States. Ten of those encountered were arrested on federal criminal charges, one was arrested on state charges and 86 were arrested on administrative charges. Of the 86 administrative arrests placed in removal proceedings, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) placed 54 in detention and 32 were released from custody,” Spicer stated. No explanation was given as to why 32 were released.

WKYT News reported:

A person at the scene, Faustino Hernandez, told Gray affiliate WVLT a meatpacking plant in Rutledge called Southeastern Provision was raided earlier Thursday when agents allegedly entered the building without notice. Hernandez said ICE officers surrounded the building so that no one could leave, and all those inside were detained.

ICE said the people who were determined to be subject to removal were “administratively arrested and placed in removal proceedings,” though officials were unable to release specific information on the arrests.

Hernandez said agents took more than 100 people in vans to the National Guard Armory on Highway IIE in Hamblen County. Hernandez said people had been detained since 11 a.m.

The raid reportedly occurred just before school was out, so some of the captured illegal workers could not go retrieve their children from school.

A reporter for WKYT-TV reported the “heartbreaking” scene, as the families waited outside the National Guard armory to see if their loved ones would be released. He said the community was rallying around them, bringing food and water for the families while they waited outside after the illegal aliens were arrested.

Families of the people still in custody told WVLT Thursday evening that they [the families] had been moved to Russellville Elementary School and could be staying overnight. School officials said the elementary school doors would be open until 6 a.m. Friday for families with nowhere to turn.

Several family members of people detained Thursday told WVLT they expected their loved ones to be deported because they lacked proper documentation.

As of Thursday night, the Hispanic Outreach Leadership Alliance (HOLA) had contacted the Tennessee Immigration Rights Coalition, who sent lawyers and help to reunite kids and parents Thursday. HOLA and community leaders were helping families complete official paperwork Thursday night that would release children from their families so that other guardians could take over their custody.

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