Cutting Off The 'Chicken Trail'

Tyson foods headquarters AP

The Census Bureau reports the number of illegal immigrants in this country doubled in the past decade, to more than 8 million. Many were smuggled in and as CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara reports, one American company is accused of being caught up in the practice.

Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest poultry processor, has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to smuggling illegal immigrants to work at its U.S. plants as a way to boost profits.

In a 15-page, 36-count federal indictment, the poultry processing giant, one of its vice presidents and five managers are accused of conspiracy to recruit and smuggle illegal immigrants into this country to work at 15 Tyson plants in nine states.

"Myself, I believe they gave it their blessing. (It) saved them money," says Lt. Detective Dave Adams of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department.

Shelbyville, Tenn. police uncovered the case and confiscated dozens of forged IDs from Hispanic workers at the town's Tyson processing plant.

Undercover cameras and informants led them to a local Mexican grocery where police say store owner Amador Anchondo-Rascon was the self-styled "jefe de jefes" - the "boss of the bosses" -- who was allegedly paid to supply hundreds of illegal workers to Tyson for years.

Jailed in Tennessee, Mexican-native Anchando-Rascon is at the center of the biggest immigrant smuggling case ever involving a major American company.

"If you needed false documents to gain employment such as a social security card or resident alien card he was the one who could procure them for you," says Shelbyville Police Officer Bill Logue.

Declining on-camera interviews with CBS News, a Tyson headquarters statement says any violations "were isolated incidents" that "involved only a handful of mid- and lower-level managers and were a direct breach of company policy."

And Bedford County Sheriff Clay Parker warns, "the illegal workers are nationwide, it's not just here."

For years, thousands of illegal immigrants have followed Mexico's "chicken trail," a human smuggling route of desert hikes and long bus rides to the U.S. border.

Though many are caught trying to smuggle into this country, many others reach the low-paying food processing jobs in Southern and Midwest towns.

Now, instead of only rounding up the usual illegal suspects, federal prosecutors and police are going after the companies that supply the jobs.

"That's what this case is about. It's about people that used the unfortunate circumstances of the illegal alien to line their own pockets," says Parker.

Anchando-Rascon may testify against Tyson with the hope of lessening his jail time and to avoid being deported.

And the good life he dreamed of in small-town America is now a nightmare of his own making.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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