ICE officials conduct investigation in Nebraska - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

ICE officials conduct investigation in Nebraska

Courtesy: The Frontier and Holt County Independent Courtesy: The Frontier and Holt County Independent
Courtesy: The Frontier and Holt County Independent Courtesy: The Frontier and Holt County Independent

The Frontier and Holt County Independent is reporting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Nebraska State Patrol officials are apparently conducting an immigration raid throughout O'Neill including the O'Neill Ventures tomato plant on Highway 281. 

"I can't tell you much as this point because we have an ongoing operation going on," said Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman.

The investigation was part of a multi-state operation led by ICE Homeland Security Investigations.

Criminal arrest warrants were executed for 17 people connected to an alleged criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Nebraska and Minnesota. 

According to a release from ICE, search warrants were issued to several other businesses and locations in O'Neill. They included Elkhorn River Farms, O'Neill ventures, La Heurradura Restaurant, El Mecadito (a grocery store), and a private ranch.

These locations did not include private residences included in the execution of search and arrest warrants.

The investigation began this morning before 9 a.m. NSP law enforcement officials are currently blocking the entrance to the plant and armed officials have surrounded the building. 

A Homeland Security bus exited the plant around noon. The plant employs around 80 people. It is unclear how many illegal immigrants were detained on the bus. 

Law enforcement officials were at a residence on East Benton Street early this morning. It is unknown at this time if anyone was detained. 

Other businesses allegedly raided in O'Neill included the Tienda Mexicana grocery store and La Herradura, both located near Third and Douglas streets.

HerdCo feedlot near Bartlett also was allegedly raided. Christensen Farms was visited, but no individuals were detained.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Holt County has an estimated 507 Hispanic residences as of 2017, up from 306 in 2010. 

"The O'Neill Public School District is here for all our students who have been affected. We are here to provide whatever we can. We have counselors on site. We are doing whatever we can to make it easier for the children," said Superintendent Amy Shane.

The O'Neill Public Elementary has been opened to minors displaced.

"We have around a dozen students at the elementary school," Shane said. "We have received a lot of phone calls and text from community members. We have a strong community support for the families." 

This afternoon, the ACLU of Nebraska issued a statement on the investigation: 

"The Trump administration’s war on immigrants was waged in Central Nebraska today. The ACLU condemns this ongoing campaign of misery that targets immigrants, disrupts local businesses and separates families. Immigrants enrich Nebraska communities in countless ways and are fulfilling an important role in our local economy. We are proud to stand in solidarity with our Nebraska neighbors and a host of Nebraska leaders across the political spectrum from the faith community, business community and agriculture community, in urging our Congressional delegation to stop playing politics and enact immigration reform, including a permanent solution for DREAMers, TPS recipients, asylees and refugees. We encourage attorneys interested in volunteering to serve those affected by the recent ICE raid to contact Immigrant Legal Center or ACLU of Nebraska for training resources and community members to report suspected civil rights violations to the ACLU, because the Constitution protects immigrants too,” Rose Godinez, J.D. Legal and Policy Counsel ACLU of Nebraska.

KTIV will continue to have coverage on this story throughout the day.

The Frontier and Holt County Independent reports U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are conducting a raid in O'Neill, Nebraska Tuesday morning.

O'Neill is 123 miles west of South Sioux City on Highway 20. 

KTIV will continue to have coverage on this story throughout the day.

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