TIGERTOWN, TX—With new enforcement priorities under the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are taking aim at employers that knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants. The most recent — and largest — bust happened at a trailer manufacturing plant here.
Business had been booming at Load Trail LLC, which makes steel trailers. Then came the ICE raid in late August. Now, the company’s production floor is nearly half-empty because of an acute shortage of welders, according to a report produced by National Public Radio.
Load Trail CEO Kevin Hiebert remembers the morning of Aug. 28, when a helicopter thumped overhead and 300 ICE agents swarmed into his yard. “It looked like something you would typically see in the movies,” he said, “not something you ever planned on living out in real life.”
ICE rounded up more than 150 employees—nearly a quarter of Hiebert’s workforce—loaded them into buses and booked them for working in the country unlawfully. A criminal investigation of the company continues.
“Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses. In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents,” said Katrina Berger, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in the Dallas ICE office.
But you won't hear those complaints in Tigertown, Texas. “I think the manufacturing industry in Texas, any kind of steel fabrication construction, depends on illegal immigrant labor,” Hiebert says.