At least 50 detained in Tennessee immigration raid

HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- According to officials, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) forces, along with agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division and the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) all worked to execute a federal criminal search warrant in Grainger County, Tennessee Thursday afternoon.

During a search with the warrant, officials with ICE said HSI agent encountered individuals "who may be subject to removal from the United States."

A person at the scene, Faustino Hernandez, told Gray affiliate WVLT a meatpacking plant in Rutledge called Southeastern Provision was raided earlier Thursday when agents allegedly entered the building without notice. Hernandez said ICE officers surrounded the building so that no one could leave, and all those inside were detained.

ICE said the people who were determined to be subject to removal were "administratively arrested and placed in removal proceedings," though officials were unable to release specific information on the arrests.

Hernandez said agents took more than 100 people in vans to the National Guard Armory on Highway IIE in Hamblen County. Hernandez said people had been detained since 11 a.m.

Morristown Police said 16 officers were providing security at the building where detainees were being held earlier Thursday. Police also said federal agents and state police were staging at the National Guard Armory to conduct the investigation Thursday afternoon.

Tennessee State Police relieved MPD from assisting at the scene.

As of Thursday night, about 50 people remained detained in the armory. Several people were taken by bus to either Louisiana or Alabama, though officials could not comment on which individuals went to which location.

About 30 people had been released completely as of Thursday night, having completed their processing.

Hernandez said Thursday afternoon that he was working to help pick up kids and inform family members of the individuals affected by the raid. He said some parents detained at the plant could not make it to schools at around 3 p.m. to pick up their children. Hernandez said he was working with a local church to house the children until they could be reunited with their parents, or until arrangements could be made.

KC Alvarado with Hamblen County Schools tells WVLT a plan was in place with schools to coordinate with bus drivers to check if students' parents were present before letting them leave school buses. Students who were not released to an adult were then taken back to schools so that principals could contact emergency contacts.

Grainger County Schools were on Spring Break Thursday.

Families of the people still in custody told WVLT Thursday evening that they [the families] had been moved to Russellville Elementary School and could be staying overnight. School officials said the elementary school doors would be open until 6 a.m. Friday for families with nowhere to turn.

ICE officials said families affected by the raid could use the agency's detainee locator online here to find information about specific people.

Several family members of people detained Thursday told WVLT they expected their loved ones to be deported because they lacked proper documentation.

As of Thursday night, the Hispanic Outreach Leadership Alliance (HOLA) had contacted the Tennessee Immigration Rights Coalition, who sent lawyers and help to reunite kids and parents Thursday. HOLA and community leaders were helping families complete official paperwork Thursday night that would release children from their families so that other guardians could take over their custody.

Morristown police said friends and family may reach out to 888-351-4024 for information.

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Photo courtesy: Faustino Hernandez