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ICE raids target businesses in Minnesota, Nebraska, Appleton facility is among Christensen Farm locations raided;

This enforcement action in Minnesota and Nebraska is part of a 15-month, ongoing Homeland Security Investigations operation based on evidence that these companies allegedly knowingly hired illegal aliens at their facilities, and that many of these aliens are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens. Photo / Homeland Security Investigations

Multiple locations of Christensen Farms operations, accused of hiring illegal laborers, were among work sites in Nebraska and Minnesota raided by federal immigration agents Wednesday.

The raids were part of a multi-state investigation into multiple agricultural-related businesses in the two states, according to a Homeland Security Investigations news release.

Also, a series of criminal arrest warrants were executed for 17 individuals connected to the alleged criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal workers for "profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering" in Nebraska and Minnesota, said the news release.

Christensen Farms locations served with warrants include its company headquarters in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, its truck wash facility in Appleton, Minnesota, and a producer plant in Atkinson, Nebraska.

Christensen Farms is one the largest hog producers in the United States.

"The job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders," Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier of Homeland Security Investigations said in a press release.

"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."

"Specifically, these illegal aliens were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an unlawful remittance business for a fee, have tax money deducted from their pay even though this money was never paid to the government, and were coerced to remain quiet about this criminal activity.

A Christensen Farms spokesperson told the Mankato Free Press the company was cooperating with officials.

"We're unaware of any wrongdoing by the company," company spokesman Amber Portner said.

Christensen Farm has nearly 1,000 employees and 1,500 contract partners across the Midwest, according to the Free Press. The company markets nearly 3 million hogs, according to its corporate website.

Agents from ICE also administratively arrested 133 people for illegally working in the U.S., according to the news release.

The illegal aliens who remain in ICE custody after being administratively arrested on immigration violations will be transported to a nearby processing facility and placed in removal proceedings, according to the news release. Detained aliens will be held in facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota while awaiting removal proceedings.

The operation, one of the largest in HSI's 15-year history, Cormier said. More than 350 federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together on the action, she said.

The enforcement action is part of a 15-month Homeland Security investigation based on evidence that these companies allegedly knowingly hired illegal aliens at their facilities, and that many of these aliens are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens, the ICE news release said.

This HSI operation is part of the Trump administration's immigration enforcement actions against employers across the country.

This HSI-led enforcement action was coordinated with federal, state and local counterparts including the following agencies: U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nebraska; ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol, CBP Air and Marine Operations; and the following Nebraska law enforcement agencies: Holt County Sheriff's Office, O'Neill Police Department and Nebraska State Patrol.

Kelly Boldan

Kelly Boldan has been the editor of the West Central Tribune of Willmar, since joining the newspaper in October 2001. He has previously worked as the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, also part of Forum Communications Co., and other daily newspapers, online Web sites, and weekly agriculture newspapers in Wisconsin, Texas and Minnesota. You can follow via Twitter at @KellyBoldanWCT or read about the Tribune's newsroom blog at: insidescoop.areavoices.com or the Tribune's blog at: westcentraltribune.areavoices.com.

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