O’NEILL – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and the Nebraska State Patrol conducted a bust of undocumented immigrants at the O’Neill Ventures tomato processing plant on Highway 281.
An ICE spokesman says it’s an ongoing investigation at the plant that employs 80 people in a town with a population of 3,631.
A 2017 census estimated 507 of the about 10,000 people in Holt County were Hispanic residents. That was up from 306 in 2010.
Law enforcement officials blocked the entrance to O’Neill Ventures at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and armed officers surrounded the building. Dozens of people were seen being loaded onto a Homeland Security bus that was placed in a nearby parking lot.
The plant is a 10-acre hydroponic greenhouse complex capable of producing 250,000 pounds of tomatoes a week.
One employee at the plant said this event could leave the company with just 20 employees and may stop operations altogether. The employee also said she was told ICE was raiding a potato processing plant east of the north-central Nebraska town.
Gov. Pete Ricketts was notified of the incursion before it began and says Nebraska businesses and people have to follow the federal law and that is what is being enforced. He did not comment on what the raid would cost the state.
At another possible immigration event, a state trooper was stationed at the back entrance of a Mexican restaurant in O’Neill, according to the Paul Hammel with the World-Herald News Service.
An ICE search warrant was being served at a Mexican grocery store down the street. The door was locked and the business closed as agents patted down someone inside.
The last time a major immigration raid happened in Nebraska was in 2006 when law enforcement officials swarmed the Swift and Company beef plant in Grand Island. There were 261 arrests in the descent, but only one person was criminally charged. The effects of the raid eventually cost the plant $30 million in production.
This is a developing story. Stay with News Channel Nebraska for the latest.