Most of the 680 illegal immigrants nabbed in August’s immigration raids at poultry plants in Mississippi worked under stolen American identities, the Department of Homeland Security’s top investigator told the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday, rebuffing those who insisted the “undocumented” workers were doing no harm.

They stole the IDs of 400 U.S. citizens,” said Jere Miles, who leads Homeland Security Investigations’ New Orleans office. “Where’s their voice?” Mr. Miles was defending the Aug. 7 operations against seven processing plants as both a success and a deterrent to future illegal immigrants, battling with Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee who called a field hearing in Mississippi to criticize the raids.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did immediately release 303 of the 680 for humanitarian reasons such as young children at home, but some migrants are still in detention. Perhaps more galling is that none of the managers at the poultry processing businesses have been charged.

The raids have become a major flashpoint in the immigration debate, with some open-border activists complaining that they were conducted cruelly, and are the latest example of “separations” of children from illegal immigrant parents who got entangled with authorities because of their unauthorized status in the U.S.

Mr. Miles said the families are in no different position than any other instance where a parent runs afoul of the law and is incarcerated, forcing spouses and children to figure things out.

House majority members challenged Mr. Miles on whether anyone nabbed had major criminal rap sheets. Miles ticked off some felony cases against some of the people caught but then pointed out that 400 of them were working in the U.S. on fraudulent identities he said were stolen from Americans. “Is that not a serious crime?” he demanded of House majority members on the committee before abruptly being told to "Be quiet" by Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS).

To those who fretted that the businesses were being let off the hook, Mr. Miles urged patience. He said the heart of the August operation wasn’t the arrest of the migrants but rather to serve search warrants at the businesses, which netted 850,000 documents.

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Updated: Mon, Nov 25th 2019 @ 3:15pm EST