On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) raided seven poultry plants in and around Jackson & Morton, Mississippi. ICE took approximately 680 undocumented workers into custody. According to CNN.com, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi stated that the raids are “believed to be the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history.”
These raids occurred on the first day of school and have left a void in many of these communities. Rev. James Evans, a co-founder of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, said “our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens – 6 years old, 5 years old, 7 years old, 11 years old – they left to go to school yesterday, excited about education, and terror hit them while they were gone.”
Many of the parents swept up in the raids had minor children who were at school and daycare. If both parents were detained in the raids, then one was released the same day, on ‘humanitarian grounds.’ If a single parent was detained and had minor children, that person was also released on ‘humanitarian grounds.’ All told, approximately 30 people were released on humanitarian grounds.
Parents with minor children were provided with cell phones so that they could contact caregivers. Efforts were made to reunite children with a parent or guardian the same day.
These raids have had a profound impact on school attendance in the area. In one school district, over 25% of the districts Hispanic students were absent the day after the raids. Two days later, 9% were absent.
How did ICE Come to Target These Plants?
- ICE became aware of certain poultry plants hiring undocumented workers when previously detained individuals indicated that they worked at those plants. Also, when previously detained individuals wore ankle monitoring devices, ICE tracked their movements and tracked them to their places of work.
- In at least one plant ICE had confidential informants identified undocumented workers along with managers who knew of the hiring of undocumented people.
Effects on the Community & Local Economy
- People swept up in the raid are now without a job, besides facing deportation.
- Many people facing deportation will continue to need money for food, clothing, and rent.
- Some of the poultry plants shut down in the aftermath of the raids as there was a shortage of workers. These closures affect the plants themselves, but also other employees who are losing wages due to the plants’ closure.
- The poultry plants are now desperately hiring.
- With the temporary closures, people losing their jobs, and people being afraid to go outside, there is a severe financial knock-on effect in these communities. If people are not working, then their landlords are not getting paid, and the grocery stores are not being patronized.
- Additionally, there is a possibility that large communities of immigrants are going to leave the area. The local economy will be devastated if entire communities leave.
By Thursday, August 8, 2019, another 270 people had been released from ICE custody. The seven processing plants could face fines and penalties; however, at this point, it is unclear what legal consequences the businesses will face.
If you or a family member has been taken into ICE custody contact an immigration attorney immediately. Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in working with people who have been detained, and also with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help.