This week, US Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) resourced millions of dollars to carry out Trump Administration’s, largest, single-state immigration sweep of undocumented migrants at several Mississippi chicken processing plants.
Raids at seven sites in six cities (Canton, Bay Springs, Morton, Pelahatchie, Carthage and Walnut Grove) resulted in approximately 680 arrests according to Mike Hurst, US States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. At a press conference on Wednesday, Hurst reported that the sweep was a result of a yearlong criminal investigation and months of planning.
“The message we’re sending is, if you violate federal law there will be consequences. We’re not directing this at any particular group or anything like that . . . this is simply a message of our country is based on a rule of law,” said Hurst.
ICE officials say that the investigation centered undocumented immigrants working illegally. Rounded up in raids were members of local Latino communities that have been working in Mississippi chicken plants since the 1990s.
Although only employees of the chicken plants were arrested, Hurst offered a warning to employers. “To those who use illegal aliens for a competitive advantage or to make a quick buck, we have something to say to you. If you’ve violated federal criminal laws, we are coming for you.”
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) responded to raids in a Twitter post:
#ICEraids are white supremacist and cowardly acts of state-sanctioned violence designed to carry out a racist and xenophobic ideology that seeks to destroy Black and immigrant communities. We will not flinch. We will press forward to dismantle this country’s #deportation machine.
ICE detainees of Mississippi sweeps are both men and women, and some are parents to minor children without alternative guardianship. Reports of abandoned children caused outrage in the country.
In another post on Twitter about orphaned children, BAJI said:
Trump is escalating the war on immigrants. Days after the deadly attack on Latinx communities in El Paso, hours before ‘offering condolences’, Trump gave the order to carry out the largest single-state raid in this nation’s history. Hundreds of children came home to empty houses.
In an explanation of ICE’s tactics, ICE Acting Director, Matthew Albence responded, “You go out to any jurisdiction, state or local or otherwise and they make an arrest for somebody and that person is a parent. That individual is going to go to jail and that child is going to be left alone or have to left with family.”
He further clarified. “We have established a process through which we’ve worked with school liaison officers to help find placement for these children. Most of the times, these individuals, these children will be placed with another family member o of the parents’ choosing. In some instances, some of the parents that were arrested will be released. They’ll be placed on an ankle monitor and be monitored throughout the pendency through the immigration proceedings, but they may be released.”
However, local news station, WJTV, broadcast that some children were fed by strangers and put in a community gym in Forest, Mississippi.
In a statement on Thursday, U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Mississippi announced that “30 detained aliens were released yesterday on humanitarian grounds at the individual sites where they were initially encountered, and another 270 detained aliens were released after being processed by HSI at the National Guard base in Pearl and returned to the place where they were originally encountered.”
In the document, they also reported that those arrested who had children were able to either find a relative or be released if they had anyone to care for their children. Those released and in jail now await trial.
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