Homeland Security Investigations special agents arrested 120 people at an illegal cockfighting event in far southwest Arkansas. Agents determined that many are illegal immigrants.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) worked with state, local, and other federal agencies to conduct an investigation that led to a bust of an illegal cockfighting operation. A raid that followed the 18-month investigation resulted in the arrest of 120 people, many of whom were in the U.S. illegally, according to ICE.
HSI agents worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations officers, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office investigators, Arkansas State Police officers, and Arkansas Fish and Wildlife officer to carry out the 18-month investigation. The investigation led the team to obtain an Arkansas search warrant for the event’s location.
Before the raid, investigators expected about 30 to 40 people to be in attendance. When they arrived on March 17, they found a surprising 134 people in attendance.
Police arrested 120 people despite the efforts of many to flee on foot. The CBP helicopter help law enforcement officials track down those who fled the scene.
HSI Texarkana agents are helping process and positively identify all 120 of those arrested. Many of those are expected to be determined to be in the country illegally in addition to any other state and federal crimes that may have been committed.
“I am extremely proud of the work by Special Agent Jeremy Ridenour, Resident Agent in Charge J.P. Moseley and the quick response by the HSI personnel in Arkansas to this event,” Texarkana Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nick Nelson said in a written statement. “This collaborative effort not only provided prompt federal law enforcement support to our state and local partners but it also resulted in investigative leads that align with HSI priorities. It was a win-win situation.”
During the investigation, HSI agents learned some of the illegal immigrants may be working at nearby locations without authorization. Agents are planning I-9 enforcement audits in the wake of the raid.
It is expected that many of those arrested at the cockfighting event will be charged with immigration violations.