United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials executed federal criminal search warrants Wednesday at eight different restaurants in Flowood, Meridian and Pearl.
Arrests were made, according to ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd, but he would not specify the number.
All search warrants were expected to be completed Wednesday, he said. The investigation is ongoing.
At least three of the locations were Ichiban restaurants located in Flowood and Pearl. Another nearby restaurant, China Buffet of Pearl, was also searched.
Those restaurants were closed after officers finished their searches Wednesday, Byrd said. It was not clear when the restaurants would reopen.
Byrd said ICE officials will turn over what they find to the United States Attorney’s Office. That office will reveal whether any charges have been made at a later date.
At Ichiban Chinese Buffet in Pearl, local police department officers assisted with securing the restaurant beginning at 10:30 a.m., said Pearl Police Department spokesman Lt. Brian McGairty. Pearl police cars blocked driveways to the restaurant. The search at this location appeared to be over by 1:30 p.m.
Shortly after police cars left, an Ichiban employee taped a hand-written sign to the restaurant entrance that read “We’re Close Today … – Management.” She said she was not allowed to talk about any activity that occurred in the restaurant Wednesday.
Ichiban employees remained inside the closed restaurant after ICE officials and Pearl police officers left.
Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, said these types of searches are related to a Department of Homeland Security announcement this week that laid out the Trump administration’s plans for immigration law enforcement, including a potentially massive expansion of who will be detained and deported.
“What’s going on here is going on all over as we speak,” Chandler said.
According to an ICE statement, the agency two weeks ago launched a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country.
“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” the statement said.
ICE officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City areas of responsibility arrested more than 680 individuals last week.
The statement said ICE conducts these kinds of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years, and that the individuals “pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”
Ramiro “Remy” Orozco, partner of Anderson & Orozco, which describes itself as the largest immigration law firm in the state of Mississippi, published a statement Wednesday saying the searches have had its office lines flooded with calls for advice and representations.
“The recent raids in the metro and Flowood area are alarming,” Orozco said.
Chandler said some business owners in Mississippi on Wednesday sent home employees who are undocumented immigrants as a safety precaution.