UPDATE 5 PM Wednesday: Three men facing federal immigration charges after a raid at a Grainger County slaughterhouse are ready to plead guilty, records show.
Evelio Alejandro Bravo-Arreaga of Guatemala and David Perez-Bartelon and Jose Roblero-Bravo, both of Mexico, were among 10 people working at the Southeastern Provision plant in Bean Station who were detained following an April 5 raid.
The government says they're in the country illegally.
Court documents show their federal defender has in recent days begun filing paperwork to plead guilty. More guilty pleas may be coming.
Bravo-Arreaga is charged with failure to leave the country after being ordered out. Perez-Bartelon and Roblero-Bravo are charged with re-entering the county after being deported.
All three are in custody.
Federal Homeland Security and IRS agents raided the plant owned by James Brantley amid an investigation into whether Brantley was illegally paying his workers. Some 100 workers were rounded up during the raid, and many are still in federal custody.
Neither Brantley nor the plant have been charged with a crime. Brantley has declined comment.
The plant remains in operation.
Seven other defendants continue to face possible trial in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. Some sought to delay their trials to late September; others are scheduled for June trials but those dates could be put off.
A previously scheduled court date of Wednesday, May 9, ended up being canceled for the 10.
PREVIOUS STORY: Ten men and women accused of violating federal immigration laws while working at a Grainger County meat packing plant will head back to court Wednesday for a pretrial motion hearing.
The 10 will face a federal judge in Greeneville, and the hearing is expected to begin at 1:30 p.m.
Federal agents raided the slaughterhouse owned by James Brantley after receiving a tip he and family members may have been skirting tax and payroll laws. Close to 100 people were detained by authorities, with the 10 defendants ultimately hit with federal charges.
Six are from Mexico; four are from Guatemala.
Those charged with re-entering the country after being deported face up to two years in prison. Those charged with failing to leave after being ordered out face up to four years.
Defendant Virgen Mendoza-Perez faces up to 20 years because she's twice been ordered deported and previously have been convicted of a child abuse case in Florida.
Along with facing federal prison time, they also ultimately still will face deportation.
Along with Mendoza-Perez and Gomez-Pablo, the defendants are identified as Jose Roblero-Bravo; Miguel Silva-Silva; David Perez-Bartelon; Marvin Oriel Marroquin-Lopez; Domingo Gregorio-Domingo; Evelio Alejandro Bravo-Arreaga; Antonio Garcia-Martin; and Pablo Tivurcio-Lopez.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to hundreds of law enforcement officers at the 2018 Gatlinburg Law Enforcement Conference Tuesday, specifically mentioning the April ICE raid.
"You don't get to gain a competitive advantage in this country by having illegal workers working for you," Sessions said. "So I'm not shedding tears over that."
Sessions came down hard on the plant.
"You don't get the benefit of being in this country and look around the world to find the cheapest worker you can find," Sessions said. "That's just not good policy for this country. The American people understand that."
But Bishop Richard Stika of the Knoxville Diocese called on Sessions to show compassion.
"I have seen tears shed by families torn apart by the aggressive enforcement of immigration laws under this and previous administrations," Stika said. "I again ask our lawmakers to address this issue in a dignified way."
St. Patrick's Church in Morristown said is hosting a Mother's Day gathering on Thursday with an empty seat set aside for Governor Bill Haslam. The church has been one of a few organizations helping families affected by the raid since the beginning, saying they've invited Haslam to have a conversation with the community about the raid but have been turned down multiple times.