On Aug. 7, 2019, The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided seven food processing plants across the state of Mississippi. These raids resulted in nearly 700 individuals being detained by ICE officers, stripped from their place of work without warning or hesitation.
According to The American Immigrant Lawyers Association, the actions [the raids] were part of an ongoing Homeland Security Investigations worksite enforcement criminal investigation, and it was conducted in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.
However, if this was all part of a lengthy, thought out an investigation, why weren’t greater lengths taken to properly prepare for the aftermath of detaining that many people? Why Mississippi, a state with no immigration court?
When you remove almost 700 people from their lives without any notice, you leave behind at least 700 more people to be affected by their sudden removal. I am willing to assume that most of those 700 people had someone that was expecting them in some way, and no one thought to allow any newly detained person a single phone call.
Children are of the biggest concern, especially considering that some of them do not have another potential guardian in the area. Also, for many kids in Mississippi, Aug. 7 was the first day of school. Some children were left at school without explanation, and some went home to wait for a family that would never come, each unable to understand why their hard-working parents would leave them without letting them know.
These children were not alone in their confusion. Husbands were left without wives, and wives were left without husbands. Grandparents were left without their children and had to care for their grandchildren, despite their inability to get around easily. Family members in other countries were left without promised phones calls.
This raid was one of the largest raids to occur in the United States over the last two years, and I cannot help but think that it was done to purposefully isolate these new detainees even more. Under the United States Constitution, it clearly states that all people on US soil are promised their day in court, but it doesn’t promise that day in court will be fair, especially when you’re an immigrant.
The immigrants detained in Mississippi would be sent to detention centers in Mississippi, while some were taken to a neighboring state. In states with no immigration court, immigrants are required to do their counseling via video chat and are taken to a neighboring state with an immigration court for their court proceedings.
This scenario makes it much more complicated for immigrants to receive adequate counsel, and it makes things like seeing their families, obtaining money and maintaining relationships all the more difficult. It seems to me like there should be an easier way to do this, a way that treats immigrants like human beings and holds ICE accountable for their actions.