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This Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a raid on workplaces in Mississippi in what the New York Times reported might be the “largest worksite enforcement action ever in a single state.” More than 600 ICE agents arrested 680 people, leaving a number of children scared and crying, wondering where their parents were and when they would come home. Many found their parents gone after coming home from their first day of school.
Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, told the Jackson Free Press he’d been getting calls, “hearing stories about children who went to their first day of school today and whose parents were hauled off, and how the government did not make accommodations for those situations.”
The local CBS affiliate WJTV interviewed 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio who said, “Government please show some heart. Let my parent be free.”
“I need my dad and mommy,” Gregorio told WJTV. “My dad didn’t do anything, he’s not a criminal.”
The raids targeted undocumented immigrants who work at food processing plants in several towns across Mississippi. According to the Times, Mike Hurst, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said the raid is “believed to be the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history.” The Times also reported that ICE said in a statement that those who were arrested during Wednesday’s raid would be interviewed in order to “record any potential mitigating humanitarian situations” which would help decide who would stay detained and who might be released. Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting director, defended the raid, calling it “a textbook operation, carried out in a safe manner, and done securely.”
BuzzFeed News reported that administrators at the Leake County School District said a shelter was created at an elementary school for any child who found out their parents were detained. Bus drivers were also told to “monitor each drop-off.” BuzzFeed spoke to Jordan Barnes, who owns a gym in Forest, Mississippi, and helped house some of the children. Barnes said all the children he was housing were reunited with a relative by nighttime and that some of the people who were previously detained had been brought back, a fact that was confirmed to BuzzFeed by an ICE spokesperson.
The Clarion Ledger similarly reported that ICE released hundreds of those detained, some on “humanitarian grounds,” and that an ICE spokesperson told the outlet that those who were detained were given cellphones to make child care arrangements, if needed.
The raid happened on the same day President Trump arrived in El Paso, Texas, the site of a recent mass shooting. El Paso is a city on the Mexico border, and the shooting is currently being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism where the shooter reportedly targeted Latinx people.
BuzzFeed also reported that this is not the first major workplace raid of the year; back in April, more than 280 people were arrested by ICE in Texas. It’s been reported to be the largest single-site workplace sweep in a decade.