DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Two federal agencies have contradicted each other over whether they communicated before a raid at a northeast Iowa meatpacking plant in May, an Iowa congressman said Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley sent a letter just days after the May 12 raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant to both agencies -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Labor. He also sent the letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Braley asked whether the agencies cooperated before the Agriprocessors Inc. bust, which U.S. attorneys officials have called the single largest immigration raid in U.S. history. He said he was concerned that the raid could have impeded an ongoing Labor Department investigation of possible violations by the meatpacking company.
Braley said the three agencies responded this week, and immigration and labor department responses "directly contradicted each other."
ICE said in its response that it had fully coordinated with federal agencies going into the raid and that labor officials were there when the search warrant was executed.
"However, the Department of Labor states in their written response that the May 12 raid occurred without their knowledge or participation," Braley said from Washington during a conference call with reporters.
The Justice Department's letter stated that officials couldn't discuss pending matters.
The Labor Department's response to Braley indicated that its own Office of the Inspector General may have cooperated with the ICE enforcement action without other labor officials' knowledge. While it said the raid "changes the complexion" of its investigation of Agriprocessors, officials said it shouldn't keep the department from completing it.
"Please be assured that the Department of Labor is committed to full and fair enforcement of all laws for which it is responsible," its letter to Braley said.
ICE also claimed in its letter that labor department officials interviewed illegal workers during the operation at Agriprocessors.
Telephone messages left for officials with ICE and the Labor Department weren't immediately returned.
Braley said he sent another letter to ICE on Thursday seeking information about communications before the raid. He wants to know who at the agency claims to have made the initial contact, how it was made -- by letter or verbally -- and who at the Department of Labor responded.
"It concerns me greatly that there is conflicting information on whether ICE communicated with DOL prior to the Agriprocessors raid," Braley said in the letter. "While upholding immigration law is important, so is ensuring workplace safety. One should not have to come at the expense of the other."
He added: "I hope that lack of communication between ICE and DOL did not and does not lead to decreased safety for workers at the Agriprocessors plant."
Nearly 400 people were arrested during the raid at the plant.
Most of the workers arrested were charged with using false identification or incorrect Social Security numbers. Two plant supervisors were later charged with aiding and abetting the possession and use of fraudulent identification.
Since the raid, allegations have arisen of unsafe conditions, child labor violations and low-paid workers abused by supervisors.
A request for comment Thursday afternoon from an Agriprocessors spokesman wasn't immediately returned.