This past week marked the one year anniversary of the largest workplace immigration raid in U.S. history, at the Fresh Mark Plant in Salem.  More than 100 were arrested at the meat packing plant.

In this week's Cover Story we explore what impact the immigration raid had on the city of Salem and one of it's largest employers.

It was on June 19th of 2018, when U.S. Customs and Enforcement agents executed a criminal search warrant on Salem's Fresh Mark Plant.

ICE agents arrested 146 migrant workers from the Salem and Massillon meat packing facilities on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally.  In some cases, husbands and wives were both taken into custody.  Leaving some children without either parent.

Sister Rene Weeks of St. Paul Catholic Church says, "The effects of the raid last a lot longer than the time it took to get children back to families of course because people lost jobs and there was just a long term effect on the community.

But it was, in fact, the community, including St. Paul Catholic Church of Salem and Salem Schools that stepped up to provide refuge and comfort for families impacted by the raid.

Food, shelter and legal resources were available to mostly Guatemalan families, and several Mexican families who did not speak English.

"I think Salem was at it's best.  The response from all kinds of people in the community was really outstanding I thought," Sister Rene said.

In the year since the immigration raid sources estimate that about half of those people who were detained have since returned to work, able to prove they had legal documents.  Others have found different jobs in the community, like working at dairy farms or American Standard.

However, a handful were deported, and some are seeking asylum - but forced to wait on the courts.

Thirteen people were indicted on federal charges of using fraudulent identification cards and paperwork to obtain employment, and Fresh Mark was suspected of knowingly hiring them.

Sister Rene tells 21 News, "In some cases, the children and maybe the wife are still here and the husband was deported.  In some cases, it was individual men who were deported."

One young man named Peter who did not want to talk on camera says he was one of the people while working at Fresh Mark last year.
He described the raid as scary, saying he was jailed for one month and 13 days.  Now he's waiting on a work permit but doesn't plan to return to Fresh Mark.

"It's a process because the immigration courts are very backed up, so it just takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.  You don't get responses very quickly," according to Sister Rene.

Salem's Mayor John Berlin says there were also concerns about the future of Fresh Mark, one of the city's largest employers.  "Well initially everyone was concerned about what effect it might have on their business.  But they haven't really slowed down, there are still a lot of people employed, trucks going in and out."

But one thing's for sure, the immigration raid that shook this community also opened its eyes to just who was living in Salem.

"There's some Mexicans, there's a couple of families from Colombia, there's a family whose background would be Argentinian, there's some Puerto Ricans in the areas.  So when we speak about the Hispanics in the area, it's broader than just Guatemalans," Sister Rene said.

And this growing Hispanic community has many needs that St. Paul Catholic Church and the schools continue to serve, according to Sister Rene, "We have a number of parents who are studying English here, English as a second language, they come with children who are marvelous translators."

So as the immigration battle continues to heat up nationwide, the city of Salem, it's Fresh Mark plant and the community have learned lessons from the ICE roundup in their town.

Now they're working to make sure everyone is legal, so they can embrace the multi-cultural community they've become.

Mayor Berlin says, "People who are actually here, or having children here in the states that may not be documented properly, the child will become more American than their parents ever were."

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement did not respond to a request for information on exactly how many Fresh Mark workers were deported.  Fresh Mark also did not respond to a request for a comment on this story.