2018 Southeastern Provisions raid

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2018 Southeastern Provisions raid
Southeastern Provisions facility, Bean Station.jpg
Southeastern Provisions facility in June 2021
DateApril 5, 2018 (2018-04-05)
Timec. 9:00 a.m. (EDT)
VenueSoutheastern Provisions LLC slaughterhouse and meatpacking facility
Location1617 Helton Road, Bean Station, Tennessee, United States
Coordinates36°17′16″N 83°23′46″W / 36.287884°N 83.396065°W / 36.287884; -83.396065 (2018 Southeastern Provisions raid)Coordinates: 36°17′16″N 83°23′46″W / 36.287884°N 83.396065°W / 36.287884; -83.396065 (2018 Southeastern Provisions raid)
Also known asBean Station ICE raid
TypeWorkplace raid
CauseInvestigation into workplace violations, tax evasion
TargetJames Brantley and undocumented workers[1]
ChargesConspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, wire fraud, tax evasion, violating federal labor and environmental laws

The 2018 Southeastern Provisions raid was a workplace raid that occurred at Southeastern Provisions, a cattle slaughterhouse and meat-packing facility in Grainger County, Tennessee, United States, 9 miles west of the town of Bean Station.[2]

The facility was raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP).[1][3] 11 workers were arrested and 86 more were detained, all of whom were suspected of residing in the United States unlawfully.[1] As of 2021, the event remains one of the largest workplace raids in United States history.[4]

Southeastern Provisions investigation[edit]

Southeastern Provisions is a cattle slaughterhouse and meat-packing facility that began operations under the ownership of James Brantley in 1988. It was one of the largest sources of employment in Grainger County.[5] The plant was under investigation a year previous to the raid by the IRS after the agency hearing reports from local banking officials stating that Brantley was making weekly withdrawals of $100,000 to make in cash payroll for workers. Reports have suggested that Brantley hired an estimated amount of 150 undocumented workers in an attempt to reduce business expenses as much as possible.[6]

In May 2017, as part of the newly established Trump administration's immigration policy targeting employers of undocumented workers, federal agents selected Southeastern Provisions and placed an informant to work at the facility. The individual was hired without documentation and was paid in cash. The informant had observed harsh working conditions such as workers handling hazardous materials with no personal protective equipment and another losing several fingers while operating an electric saw.[7]

A month prior the raid, Southeastern Provision's sewage treatment system had failed, causing waste containing bodily fluids and parts from slaughtered cattle to disperse into the groundwater of the surrounding area.[8] The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) would impose a $12,000 civil penalty on Southeastern Provisions until a new sewage treatment facility was constructed at the plant site.[9] An investigation by the TDEC found dangerous strands of E. coli and Coliform bacteria in water wells and gardens in the homes of the neighborhoods located downward from the facility.[10] Bean Station, the town nearest to Southeastern Provisions, did not have a sewer system for the excess waste to be relocated to, prompting the TDEC to mandate a "pump and dump" plan to wastewater facilities in nearby municipalities such as Morristown and Greeneville until the new sewer plant was constructed at the plant.[9]

The raid[edit]

On April 5, 2018, a federal search warrant executed by the ICE, IRS, and the THP had the agencies raid Southeastern Provisions around 9:00 a.m EST. Federal agents had discovered 104 undocumented workers employed at the facility, detaining 86 and arresting 11. IRS officials had obtained information concluding that Brantley had paid the undocumented workers at a rate of $8–10 dollars an hour, with no extra pay for overtime.[11] Law enforcement officials had surrounded the perimeter of the plant's complex, blocking every exit and then flooded the plant with armed officers telling those inside to freeze.[12]

Workers at the plant reported that federal agents targeted those of Hispanic descent, yelling racial slurs at the nearly 100 Latino workers of Southeastern Provisions, and ordering them to stop working immediately and raise their hands. White workers were reportedly ordered to stay put and some were allowed to smoke on site. Actions of violence performed by agents included workers being booted, punched in the face, and one worker having a gun pointed at his head while having to urinate supervised by several agents.[13] Reymunda Lopez, one of the detained plant workers, described the raid as a hostile situation, "They gathered us in the middle of all of the cattle, and told us to put our hands behind our heads, and not to resist arrest because if they did they were going to hand cuff us."[14]

Those detained were sent to a National Guard center in Morristown in neighboring Hamblen County, where they were questioned by authorities. Families of the detained gathered where they found out whether their family members were released or deported. 54 undocumented laborers were sent to ICE detention facilities in Louisiana and Alabama.[15][16]


Community and political impact[edit]

Protestors and family members of the detained march holding signs in both English and Spanish in neighboring downtown Morristown

In the immediate aftermath of the immigration raid, over 500 Hispanic students in the neighboring city of Morristown skipped school the following day in fear of being deported along with several arrested at Southeastern Provisions.[17] Many churches and non-profit organizations in the Morristown-Hamblen area had planned together activities for those who had family or friends involved in the raid.[18] An estimated crowd of 300 individuals led a protest against ICE and the Trump administration, which had then recently planned the raids of workplaces across the United States.[19] A fundraising for families impacted received over $60,000 for financial support.[18]

The support given to the immigrant families grew increasingly political in the area surrounding the raid.[7] Politicians from Hamblen and Grainger counties provided various comments on the raid and its impact on their represented communities.[7] Mayor Gary Chesney of Morristown would analyze both sides of the argument, “It involves more focus when things land in our lap. There are many who’ve hollered that we want illegal immigrants gone. At the same time, we don’t think children need to go to bed at night afraid.”[7]

In Grainger County, then county mayor Mark Hipsher invoked uproar from the county's many conservative residents after making statements that provided a sympathetic approach to those detained.[7] Hipsher was later defeated the county's Republican primary.[7] When asked to speak about the raid by a Rolling Stone reporter, an unnamed Grainger County Republican politician suggested that the reporter 'expose' a political rival who had allegedly hired undocumented workers.[7]

Steve Cohen, a Democratic representative representing Tennessee's 9th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives, condemned the actions of ICE performed at Southeastern Provisions at a Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition conference, stating: "This is unacceptable. The raid in Bean Station has created a humanitarian crisis in our very own state. We’ll be educating candidates in this year’s elections about the devastating impact of worksite raids and their responsibility as elected officials to speak out against these injustices and use the power of their office to limit the damage ICE can do to our communities."[20]

Following the raid, Southeastern Provisions would temporarily close, causing a disruption in the beef distribution market with an estimated loss of $20 million dollars.[9]

Legal action[edit]

In September 2018, James Brantley was found guilty of multiple state and federal crimes, including tax evasion up to $2.4 million dollars,[13] wire fraud, employing immigrants not authorized to work in the US, and many other workplace violations. He would be sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and was forced to pay over $1.3 million dollars to the IRS, and $1.42 million in restitution.[21][22][23]

Many of the workers that had been detained and later released had filed a lawsuit against ICE with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Law Center on their behalf.[24] Despite this, the ICE officials involved had been granted immunity from legal actions, leading to calls from the workers and civil rights groups to lift ICE's immunity for the lawsuit to proceed. The groups would find success two years later when Chief U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough published a public appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States to lift the immunity granted to the federal law enforcement officers involved, writing, "Perhaps a higher court will recognize causes of action that more directly address agents’ searches and seizures based on skin color.”[13] In April 2021, the United States Department of Homeland Security urged the Eastern District Court of Tennessee to exclude 41 agents involved in the raid from litigation.[25]

Southeastern Provisions would restart operations in August 2019 under the leadership of the family of James Brantley.[23] While incarcerated, James Brantley filed and signed a consent order agreeing to give an estimated $610,000 in a three-year period in pay to 150 current and former workers of Southeastern Provisions, most of whom are Hispanic, in July 2020. [26] The United States Department of Labor sued Brantley for failing to properly compensate workers at the slaughterhouse.[27] Brantley would be released in January 2021 from a Montgomery, Alabama work camp.[13] Three years after the events of the raid, Southeastern Provisions encountered another investigation, this time by the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration, after one of the plant's employees would die from on-site injuries.[28]

In film[edit]

The consequences of the raid for undocumented workers, their families and members of the impacted communities, were documented in After the Raid,[29] a 2019 documentary film by film director Rodrigo Reyes. The film was released on the streaming platform Netflix.[30][31]


  1. ^ a b c Dorman, Travis; Satterfield, Jamie (April 5, 2018). "ICE raids Grainger County meatpacking plant amid charges owners avoided $2.5M in payroll taxes". Knox News. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  2. ^ Moore, Robert (April 6, 2018). "IRS, I.C.E. officials raid Grainger County meat packing plant". The Citizen Tribune. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  3. ^ Burke, Sheila (April 6, 2018). "Immigration raid takes 97 into custody at Tennessee plant". ABC News. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  4. ^ Myers, Caitlin (November 30, 2020). "ICE Contracts with Metropolitan Knoxville Generate Fear with Rural Immigrants". Daily Yonder. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Sallinger, Marc (April 16, 2018). "Following ICE raid, Grainger County mayor worries about local economy". WBIR Channel 10 News. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  6. ^ Flynn, Dan (August 5, 2019). "Meatpacking plant owner dodged employment taxes with cash payments". Food Safety News. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Carpenter, Zoe (December 17, 2018). "When ICE Comes to Town". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  8. ^ North, John (April 6, 2018). "Records: Grainger plant septic failure caused contamination scare in March". WBIR Channel 10 News. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Moore, Robert (July 21, 2019). "Beef Bust: Multi-million dollar impact hits farmers and consumers". Citizen Tribune. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  10. ^ Dare, Don (March 21, 2018). "Residents' well water contaminated by septic failure at Bean Station slaughterhouse". WATE-TV. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  11. ^ Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office (September 12, 2018). "Southeastern Provision Owner James Brantley Pleads Guilty to Federal Information". U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Tennessee. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  12. ^ Pagan, Gabriella (February 21, 2019). "Workers detained in Bean Station ICE raid filing suit, claiming rights violations". WATE 6 On Your Side. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d Satterfield, Jamie (February 7, 2021). "Lawsuit records reveal brutality, racism by immigration agents and Tennessee troopers". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  14. ^ Webb, Jennifer (April 8, 2018). "Woman detained describes ICE raid at Southeastern Provisions". WJHL-TV. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  15. ^ "Big Immigration Raid Takes Place in Tennessee". Voice of America. May 2, 2018. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  16. ^ Pagan, Gabriella (April 5, 2019). "Impacts still felt one year after ICE raid at Grainger County slaughterhouse". WATE 6 On Your Side. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  17. ^ Speri, Devereaux, Alice, Ryan (April 10, 2018). "THE DAY AFTER TRUMP'S ICE RAID IN A SMALL TENNESSEE TOWN, 550 KIDS STAYED HOME FROM SCHOOL". The Intercept. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Blitzer, Jonathan (April 19, 2018). "In Rural Tennessee, a Big ICE Raid Makes Some Conservative Voters Rethink Trump's Immigration Agenda". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  19. ^ Jordan, Miriam (June 8, 2018). "ICE Came for a Tennessee Town's Immigrants. The Town Fought Back". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  20. ^ "TWO MONTHS AFTER THE RAID: AN UPDATE FROM MORRISTOWN". Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition. June 13, 2018. Archived from the original on 2020-10-08. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  21. ^ Lakin, Matt (September 12, 2018). "Bean Station ICE raid: Slaughterhouse owner pleads guilty to hiring undocumented workers". Knoxville News-Sentinel. Knoxville, Tennessee. Retrieved 2019-07-28.
  22. ^ "2018 Grainger County ICE raid subject of Netflix documentary". WATE 6 On Your Side. 2019-12-19. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  23. ^ a b Moore, Robert (August 1, 2019). "Southeastern Provision owner sentenced to 18 months". Citizen Tribune. Retrieved May 10, 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Pagan, Gabriella (February 21, 2019). "Workers detained in Bean Station ICE raid filing suit, claiming rights violations". WATE Channel 6 News. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  25. ^ "DHS Pans Attempt To Add 41 IRS Agents To ICE Raid Suit". Law360. April 16, 2021. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  26. ^ Moore, Robert (July 7, 2020). "Jailed slaughterhouse owner reaches civil suit settlement". The Citizen Tribune. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  27. ^ Dorman, Travis (July 9, 2020). "Bean Station slaughterhouse raided by ICE ordered to pay workers $610,000". The Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  28. ^ Holder, Robert (June 23, 2021). "Investigation underway after Bean Station meat plant worker dies". WATE-TV. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  29. ^ After the Raid at IMDb
  30. ^ "After the Raid". Netflix. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  31. ^ "Netflix documentary, 'After the Raid,' highlights the emotional fallout of April 2018 ICE raid". WBIR Channel 10 News. December 19, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2020.

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