US immigration authorities have detained some 680 undocumented immigrants in what a federal prosecutor described as "what is believed to be the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in our nation's history."
US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst told reporters the arrests took place at seven sites in six different cities in Mississippi on Wednesday. "Today, as a result of the hard work of these men and women in law enforcement, we've set another record," Hurst said.
Officials declined to provide details about what sites had been targeted, citing what they said was an ongoing criminal investigation. CNN affiliates reported the raids occurred at food-processing plants throughout the state.
The arrests came as a result of administrative and criminal search warrants executed by special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, Hurst said.
"Today, through the hard work of these men and women, we are once again becoming a nation of laws," he said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up worksite enforcement since President Trump took office, conducting a number of large-scale raids at food-processing plants and gardening centers in recent years.
"These are not new laws, nor is the enforcement of them new," acting ICE director Matt Albence said Wednesday. "The arrests today were the result of a year-long criminal investigation. And the arrests and warrants that were executed today are just another step in that investigation."
Wednesday's arrests come as anxiety is running high in many immigrant communities days after a gunman who apparently espoused anti-immigrant views killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Hurst acknowledged the recent tragedy in response to a reporter's question Wednesday, but said the operation's timing came as a result of careful planning in a lengthy investigation.
"This operation began over a year ago. You don't bring over 650 special agents from across the country into the Southern District of Mississippi in a matter of three days without preparation for months and months and months," he said. "So while the tragedies this weekend around the country are horrific, this operation had been planned way before that, and we intended to carry it out."