Nearly 700 undocumented immigrants were detained in a series of raids at agricultural processing plants across Mississippi on August 7. The immigration raids, a “record setting” operation, left hundreds of families reeling.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that 680 undocumented immigrants were detained in a massive operation at poultry and other food-processing plants in Mississippi. The operation forced families and the community to scramble in figuring out how to care for children whose parents had been detained.
Children in Forest, Mississippi, were reportedly forced to rely on neighbors and strangers to pick them up after school and comfort them after being left temporarily homeless, WJTV reported. The minors were taken to a community gym, where many cried and asked to see their parents.
“I need my dad and mommy,” 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio told WJTV. “My dad didn’t do anything, he’s not a criminal.”
Clear Creek Boot Camp owner Jordan Barnes joined other community leaders to provide the children with food, a place to sleep, and transportation to school. “I understand the law and how everything works and everything needs to have a system,” Barnes told WJTV. “But everybody needs to hold the kids first and foremost in their minds and that’s what we’ve tried to do here is give them a place to stay and ease the pain a little bit.”
All of the children were later reunited with family members, Barnes told CNN.
Approximately 300 people were released following the raids, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi said in a statement on August 8. The office said 30 undocumented immigrants were released on humanitarian grounds at the site where they were detained. Another 270 were released after being processed by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at the National Guard Armory in Pearl, Mississippi.
The statement said that if HSI found that two parents picked up in the raids had minor children at home, then one of the parents would be released on humanitarian grounds. HSI also reportedly released on humanitarian grounds any single parents with minor children at home. Released parents were returned to the place where he or she was originally detained.
“Based on these procedures, it is believed that all children were with at least one of their parents as of last night,” the US Attorney’s Office said.
ICE did not respond to The North Star’s request for additional comment about the operation.
US authorities defended the secretive operation, which they hailed as successful. “This was a textbook operation, carried out in a safe manner, and done securely,” Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting director, told The Washington Post. “Officers were able to execute these warrants in a safe fashion.”
Jere Miles, the special agent in charge of the New Orleans office of the HSI unit, told the newspaper that authorities worked hard to make sure the children were not left in vulnerable situations. He said that local schools were notified about the raids shortly after they began.
However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Child Protective Services expressed frustration about not being notified ahead of time. Lea Anne Brandon told The Washington Post that the agency had not been notified before or after the raids by ICE.
“It’s frustrating because we have resources on the ground, trained, ready, and licensed to respond to emergency situations, and we could have provided services that instead appeared to be put together in a makeshift fashion,” Brandon said.
The raid was applauded by Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves. “Glad to see that ICE is working hard to enforce our immigration laws. 680 aliens detained in Mississippi today. We must enforce our laws, for the safety of all Americans. Well done [US Attorney Mike Hurst] and [President Donald Trump],” Reeves tweeted.
Reeves did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for further comment.
However, other politicians and human rights organizations criticized the operation and stated their support for the immigrant families affected.
“President Trump continues to terrorize our communities with these unnecessary and cruel ICE raids. We are deeply concerned that the raids have separated Mississippians’ families, disrupted our local economy, and diverted our state’s limited resources to support Trump’s mass deportation agenda,” Joshua Tom, legal director and interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi said in a statement. “Local law enforcement should refuse to cooperate with the president’s anti-immigrant policies. We stand in solidarity and are committed to help the families harmed.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba called the raids “a gross display of humanity to me as a parent.” He told WJTV: “As a father of two young girls, to imagine children arriving after their first day of school to a condition where their parents are gone from their lives, I think that we truly have to question where the soul of our nation is at this point and time.”
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.