Immigration arrests of at least 55 people this week at central Mississippi eating establishments resulted from an investigation launched more than a year ago, officials say.
Fifty-five people were arrested this week after United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials executed federal criminal search warrants at eight different restaurants in Flowood, Meridian and Pearl, ICE officials said.
ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd said Thursday that warrants served on Wednesday are related to an investigation that began more than one year ago. He would not specify the violations being investigated.
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 closed after officers finished their searches Wednesday, Byrd said. On Thursday morning, Ichiban Chinese Buffet in Pearl opened again for normal business hours. Calls made to China Buffet of Pearl were not answered.
The search warrants come on the heels of a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country that ICE launched two weeks ago, according to an ICE statement.
“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.”