How Immigration Raids In August Have Changed A Small Town In Mississippi

The community of Morton, Miss., is still dealing with the biggest single-state work site immigration raid in U.S. history. Seven chicken plants were raided and 680 people arrested.

TRANSCRIPT:

Morton, Miss., is a small town surrounded by the Bienville Forest. A little more than 3,000 people live here, about 45 minutes east of the capital, Jackson. In the last few months, people who work with children in Morton have noticed something different.

PNYKII MCDOUGLE: Before, you know, they were very lively. We knew their personalities really well, so we know if something changed with them, right?

SHAPIRO: Pnykii McDougle teaches at an after-school program called Excel. She remembers one young girl.

MCDOUGLE: She was writing her definitions, and she just stops. And she goes to the top of the page, and she writes I miss you, dad. And I just – I almost broke down right there.

SHAPIRO: This classroom is just a couple blocks from a chicken processing plant. On August 7, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided seven chicken plants in Mississippi. They arrested 680 people. It was the biggest-ever workplace immigration raid in a single state. About half the arrests were in Morton alone. So three months later, we went back to Morton to look at how the raids have affected the town.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELLS RINGING)

SHAPIRO: Almost a quarter of the people in Morton are Latino, so these raids have rippled across town from banks to churches to shops. Many people who don’t work at the poultry plants are still feeling the impact.

PATI: (Through interpreter) My business is at 50% now.

SHAPIRO: Pati owns a shop called Mercadito. We’re only using her first name because everyone here is afraid that ICE agents will make a return visit. Dried chilies hang on the wall over bins of tropical fruit and cactus paddles.

By Ari Shapiro for N P R
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