Distraught relatives wept alongside distressed children in school lobbies this week, trying to grapple with the reality that agents from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had taken their parents away.
Agents stormed the workplaces and loaded up about 680 employees whom they claimed were undocumented immigrants. The agents arrested and tased at least one US citizen.
The ICE raids, carried out under the leadership of a Donald Trump-appointed US attorney, took place at seven food processing plants in six Mississippi cities. Photographs of crying children left distraught when their parents were taken into custody immediately went viral worldwide.
Father Jeremy Tobin, a Catholic priest who works with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (Mira), told the Guardian he had been flooded with worried calls and messages from immigrants, documented and undocumented alike.
Tobin, who was based in Carthage, one of the cities federal agents raided, from about 2005 to 2014, said he knows personally many of the families affected.
He said he spoke to one girl whose immigrant family members are all in the US legally. “She said her family is so torn up about this,” he said. “They all have [their immigration] papers. They all have green cards.”
Despite their legal status, the girl told Tobin, the family is living in a state of fear and anguish in the aftermath. “To see this happen, it’s so painful,” the girl told him. “And I’m glad you can understand.”
The raids on Wednesday came on the same day Trump traveled to El Paso, claiming he wanted to help unify the country after a suspected white supremacist gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart there. A manifesto attributed to the gunman said he was concerned about a “Hispanic invasion”, echoing rhetoric Trump has used on Twitter and in stump speeches. While Trump spoke of unity in front of cameras to the west, though, chaos unfolded in Mississippi.
By Ashton Pittman for THE GUARDIAN
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