MT. PLEASANT — Federal and local law enforcement officials arrested 32 men on what they described as administrative immigration violations during a raid early Wednesday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials wouldn’t confirm where the raid took place, but at about 11 a.m. Iowa State Patrol officers blocked off the entrance to MPC Enterprises — Midwest Precast Concrete — at 2001 W. Washington St. in Mt. Pleasant as relatives of workers waited outside and watched it unfold.
Agents with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations and deportation officers with ICE executed the search warrant and conducted the enforcement operation as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, according to ICE officials. The nature of the investigation was not disclosed.
The men taken into custody were loaded into vans and taken from the plant during the raid.
A dozen onlookers were gathered outside the fence at MPC Enterprises, awaiting word from family and friends.
“A lot of families with kids will be separated,” one said. “Now they won’t have their parents by their side.”
Others were just sitting on the side of the road, waiting to see what happened.
Shawn Neudauer, regional public affairs officer for ICE, said there was no threat to the public and no further information was being release Wednesday afternoon.
The 32 men included one from Honduras, two from El Salvador, 22 from Guatemala and seven from Mexico, officials said. These men will remain in custody pending removal proceedings or the outcomes of their respective cases.
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The Mt. Pleasant Police Department, Henry County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol also were on the scene.
According to its website, MPC Enterprises was founded in 2006. It said its concrete products — such as beams, pillars, wall panels and stairs — are used in projects throughout the Midwest, including at the Cedar Rapids Convention Center and City Services Center.
Wednesday’s raid comes just days before the 10th anniversary of the now-defunct Agriprocessors meatpacking plant raid on May 12, 2008, which was one of the largest workplace immigration raids at the time. There were nearly 400 illegal immigrants arrested then in Postville.
Father Nils de Jesús Hernández, Pastor at Trinity Cluster Catholic community (with parishes in Postville, Monona and McGregor) released a statement on the raid on behalf of the congregation and the Tenth Anniversary Committee of the Postville Raid.
“We stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa as law enforcement and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the Midwest Precast Concrete facility Wednesday morning. We pray for our brothers and sisters. We cannot continue to experience more raids in the USA. Families are divided and children suffer the trauma of not having their parents with them. Therefore, we continue to have a strong voice to call for immigration reform in the USA.”
Trish Mehaffey of The Gazette contributed to this report.