Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained 680 workers at several Mississippi food processing plants in early August. Some were eventually released while others are now appearing in court.

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U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson granted bond to 18-year-old Guatemala native Guillermo Domingo Gomez on Friday morning. Testimony from Gomez’s uncle convinced Anderson that the defendant had a reliable custodian to ensure he’d appear for trial.

That testimony contradicted an account from U.S. Department of Homeland Security Agent Brent Young, who said Gomez’s sworn statement following the Aug. 7 raids at Koch Foods indicated no family ties in the United States.

On cross examination, defense attorney Carlos Tanner pressed Young, revealing that immigration officials only asked Gomez whether he had a spouse or children. As it turned out, Gomez had been staying with his uncle in Forest prior to his arrest.

Anderson’s ruling came after several of days of defense attorneys struggling to prove that their clients would not be a flight risk. In most of the cases this week, the government’s prosecution provided a “preponderance of evidence” that detainees would either be likely to flee or posed a danger to the community. Prosecutors argued that by using an alias, defendants are harder to track.

In the end, U.S. attorneys could not prove any wrong doing from Gomez other than using someone else’ Social Security number to find work.

“It’s a weird thing to balance,” Anderson said before her ruling. “His desire to work is a good thing, but in this case it counts against him.”

Gomez received a $10,000 unsecured bond (meaning he won’t have to pay), with several conditions, including remaining in Mississippi’s Southern District.

Gomez’s uncle, who took the stand with a child in his lap, told the court he had already driven Gomez to immigration court in New Orleans on two occasions, and welcomed his nephew to stay with him until the trial began.

His testimony added that Gomez’s mother had contacted him before Gomez left Guatemala, saying her son was trying to escape the crime in their home country. His uncle warned her that he shouldn’t come to the U.S., but ultimately paid for Gomez’s Greyhound ticket when he got to Arizona.

Mississippi Today is continuing to cover the aftermath of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at poultry plants in early August. Click here for more coverage. 

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Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.