Immigration officials on Wednesday raided a series of food-processing plants in Mississippi, arresting 680 suspected undocumented immigrants. It could be the biggest workplace immigration enforcement action in a single state, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director Matthew Albence told the Associated Press. Children of the immigrants were left behind without their parents, left to rely on friends and strangers for food and shelter.
The raids targeted workers at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants. Around 600 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials surrounded the plants to prevent anyone from escaping. Some attempted to flee but were caught.
The raids, which had been a year in the making, took place on the same day that President Donald Trump visited El Paso, Texas, where 22 people, including immigrants and Mexican nationals, were killed this weekend by a mass shooter with anti-Hispanic beliefs in a Walmart.
“On a day when we seek unifying words and acts to heal the nation’s broken heart, President Trump allows so many families and communities to be torn apart,” executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Angelica Salas, told the Associated Press.
Immigrants were rounded up on busses and taken to military facilities where they would be processed for potential violations of immigration law. At Koch Foods in Jackson, friends and family chanted, “Let them go! Let them go!” as the busses full of immigrants pulled away, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
One especially heartbreaking consequence of the raids meant children returned home from school to find both their parents missing. They were visibly upset and taken in by friends, neighbors, and volunteers who fed them and found them shelter for the night.
“Government, please show some heart,” one child named Gregoria cried, WJTV reported. “Let my parent be free and everyone else please don’t leave the child with cryness and everything.”
HAPPENING NOW: In Forrest, Mississippi where one of the #ICE raids happened nearby Children of those who were arrested are left alone in the streets crying for help. Strangers and neighbors are taking them to a local gym to be put up for the night. FULL STORY TONIGHT ON @WJTV. pic.twitter.com/s2zuTTRYfM
— Alex Love (@AlexLoveWJTV) August 8, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a presidential candidate, shared on Twitter a video of children mourning. “These ICE raids are designed to tear families apart, spread fear, and terrorize communities,” she wrote. “These children went to daycare and are now returning home without their parents because Trump wants to play politics with their lives.”
Former President Barack Obama’s administration also used ICE raids to capture and deport undocumented immigrants.
These ICE raids are designed to tear families apart, spread fear, and terrorize communities. These children went to daycare and are now returning home without their parents because Trump wants to play politics with their lives. pic.twitter.com/hOm5TkTqxL
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 8, 2019
El Paso native and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also reacted to the news: “These children will go to sleep tonight with no idea when, or if, they’ll see their parents again. This is being done in our name — and it’s on all of us to end it.”
These children will go to sleep tonight with no idea when, or if, they’ll see their parents again. This is being done in our name—and it’s on all of us to end it. https://t.co/1LrSmiDRC3
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 8, 2019
And former Obama cabinet secretary Julián Castro, another president candidate, spoke emotionally of his own children on MSNBC’s The Last Word Wednesday night, saying, “I have a 10-year-old daughter. Like all Latino kids, I want her to grow up proud of who she is and comfortable in her own brown skin. She’s an American. Trump’s rhetoric of Latinos as the ‘other’ is dangerous and doesn’t belong in this country.”
I have a 10-year-old daughter. Like all Latino kids, I want her to grow up proud of who she is and comfortable in her own brown skin. She's an American.⁰⁰
Trump's rhetoric of Latinos as the "other" is dangerous and doesn't belong in this country. pic.twitter.com/EaAbBb3cvF
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) August 7, 2019