The Jolt: In Gainesville, poultry workers vanish amid rumors of Mississippi-style raid

Mississippi has put Gainesville on edge.

Spanish-language media reports that hundreds of poultry workers in Hall County walked away from their jobs Thursday, in response to rumors of ICE raids on local processing plants -- raids that didn’t happen.

“Our phones were blowing up with concerns,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

The panic came in the aftermath of last week’s raid on five poultry plants in Mississippi, in which 680 immigrants believed to be working without legal documentation were taken away in one of the largest single-state actions ever conducted in the U.S.

Univision 34 Atlanta quoted Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, as saying the organization had made an inspection tour of the Gainesville plants and determined there was no ICE presence. Here's the lede from today's Gainesville Times:

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said he wasn't sure what prompted rumors about raids at a Gainesville poultry plant, but he said Thursday there was "no worksite enforcement action at chicken plants in Georgia today."

Gonzalez said rumors of a raid might have been started by the recent dismissal of several poultry workers. “We heard from folks that work in the plants that ICE has been sending out ‘no match’ letters, and they’ve been firing folks,” the GALEO director said.

The poultry plants use E-Verify, an internet-based system that allows them to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States by matching names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates.

“The community was thinking that something was going to happen, because they thought the employers were working to protect themselves, to demonstrate they were trying to comply,” Gonzalez said.

Thursday’s walk-out is evidence of the presence of undocumented workers in those plants, Gonzalez said. “Without a doubt there are undocumented workers in Georgia’s agriculture industry. Even if they use E-Verify – the plants in Mississippi used E-Verify. That doesn’t mean they’re not using undocumented workers,” he said.

To that point, are the opening lines of an article in today's New York Times:

Federal immigration officials believe that the companies targeted in raids at poultry plants across Mississippi last week knowingly hired undocumented immigrants, a violation of federal law, according to affidavits filed by federal agents supporting the raids…

The affidavits, made public the day after the raids, show that the agents believe that the companies were "willfully and unlawfully" employing undocumented immigrants.

Such raids have happened in Georgia before. From our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon:

In 2006 in Georgia, federal authorities raided a chicken processing plant in Stillmore and several homes in and around Emanuel County in east Georgia. More than 120 people suspected of being in the country illegally, mostly men, were arrested.

Afterward, many people went into hiding or left town, failing to show up for their jobs at the lumber yards, steel mills and produce companies across the county and in neighboring communities. Many women and children were left behind, some without resources. Small local businesses reported suffering losses.


The Charlton County Commission on Thursday gave unanimously approval to a proposal to mine for heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting. 


A booster of QAnon conspiracy theory from Florida has organized a one-day "Digital Soldiers Conference" in Atlanta for Sept. 14. Speakers include two disgraced former Trump foreign policy aides.

The event at Cobb Galleria purports to prepare “social media warriors” for a battle against “censorship and suppression” - echoing language we’ve heard recently from mainstream Georgia Republicans.

Two of the listed speakers are Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties with Russia.

The bulk of the conference fees will go to pay Flynn's legal bills, organizers say on the event's website. More background from The Daily Beast:

Other featured speakers include Bill Mitchell, an online broadcaster and conspiracytheorist; singer and Trump backer Joy Villa; and a "mystery guest."

The event is being organized by Rich Granville, the CEO of Yippy, Inc, who has a Twitter feed littered with references to QAnon, a conspiracy theory centered around the notion that Trump is secretly taking down an international ring of pedophiles that includes high-ranking Democrats.

QAnon supporters believe that an anonymous person known as Q is dropping online clues about this supposed clandestine operation. The web page for Granville's conference prominently features an American flag festooned with a Q.


U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, criticized the Israeli government on Thursday for blocking two Muslim congressional colleagues, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, from a trip that included stops in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been encouraged by President Donald Trump to reject the two Democratic freshmen, both members of the “squad” who have been supportive of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Johnson said the rejection “shows great weakness and lack of respect for democratic ideals” and urged Israel to reconsider.

That put him on the same side as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, AIPAC and WSB's Erick Erickson.

Johnson knows what it's like to be at the center of Israel-related firestorms. He was lambasted for invoking an anti-Semitic trope when he compared Jewish settlements in the West Bank to "termites" in 2016. (He quickly embarked on anapology tour.)

And earlier this year he came under fire from Jewish groups and someon the right forcomparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. (Comments hestood by.) Johnsonvoted "present" on a bill condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement earlier this year.


Stacey Abrams won't be on Georgia's ballot next year, but Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue is using the Democrat as a foil to raise campaign cash for his re-election bid.

"She's still out there, and she's doing everything she can to deliver Georgia for national Democrats in 2020," read a fundraising appeal sent to supporters on Thursday.

“Between now and November 2020, we cannot let Stacey Abrams and her political machine go unchallenged,” it added.

Abrams’ aides used the opportunity to swipe back.

“David Perdue is trying to raise money off of fear, but he's the one who is scared,” said an Abrams spokesman. “Scared that he has no record to run on, scared of Fair Fight 2020, scared of a college kid with an iPhone, and scared of Georgians of color being able to exercise their right to vote.”


In recent months, Seventh District congressional candidate Renee Unterman has trained much of her social media fire on primary opponent Lynne Homrich. ("That Buckhead lady" being her preferred nickname for the new district resident.)

But the state senator has debuted a new Twitter nickname in recent days, this one for Democratic opponent Carolyn Bourdeaux. The Georgia State professor, Unterman said, is the "crowned apprentice" of Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams.