Updated: Apr 15, 2020
A few months ago on Wednesday, August 7 of 2019, a tragedy occurred in Morton, Mississippi where 342 undocumented immigrants were arrested at a food processing plant by ICE officials.** Pictured above is Koch Food - a chicken processing plant - in Morton that was raided. As if one plant wasn't enough, authorities went on to sweep five different plants as part of the operation. As a result, a total of 680 undocumented immigrants had been detained, many of which had children in school during the time of their arrest.*
This was not a one-time occurrence either: ICE authorities had been facilitating raids for years. However, this was one of the most impactful raids because of the capacity and the harm it caused. Many of the workers detained had families; more importantly, they had younger children in need of their parents. As a result of this raid, many kids were never picked up from school, not knowing that their parents had been taken. Their nightmare was only beginning.
According to CNN in Forest, Mississippi; strangers, and neighbors from the community volunteered to take the children that had nowhere to go to the local gym so that they could spend the night there. The volunteers said that instead of eating, the kids were in tears crying out for their parents, saying that their parents weren’t criminals and that they just wanted to see them.* No child should have to understand that their parents are gone and that they have nowhere to go. What ICE did on August 7th of 2019 was deeply disturbing and it sheds light on some of the challenges that immigrants are faced with every day.
The aftermath of the raids that are facilitated by ICE created fear within immigrant communities. Although about half of the people detained were released the following day, there were others who were deported. Elisa, a woman detained during the raid in Morton, mentions how everyone is living in fear and that some people aren’t even leaving their homes.**
Pictured above is Elisa holding hands with her three children. She said it was hardest on them because she was detained for 49 days without being able to see her children.** Elisa also explained that when she leaves the house, her youngest son of six-years-old fears that she won’t come back home. Her dreams of someday being a home and business owner have been thrown out the window as a result.
Most of the time, immigrants migrate to other countries in search of better opportunities, asylum, or for work. Oftentimes, they spend their lives in fear of being sent back to their native country. When tragic events like these occur, the community of immigrants becomes frightened and feel helpless. When raids occur, people go through trauma, and most of the time immigrants don’t have the resources or money to get the help they need. Therefore, many families in Morton, Mississippi are still living in fear months after the raids. In addition to the burden of unaddressed trauma, some of the food processing plant workers still haven’t found a job, leaving them to struggle both in their financial and physical wellbeing.** Local community member, Jim Farris, says, “He's volunteering at a food bank where Latino families show up for boxes full of diapers, canned food, dried beans, and rice — enough food for a family to get by for a week”.** As a result, they are struggling and barely holding onto what they have. These families came to America for a better life and instead they are being punished for their hard work.
* Gallagher, D., Shoichet, C. E., & Holcombe, M. (2019, August 9). 680 undocumented workers were arrested in record-setting immigration sweep on the first day of school. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/08/us/mississippi-immigration-raids-children/index.html
** Shapiro, A., Contreras, G., & Blanchard, D. (2019, November 17). Months After Massive ICE Raid, Residents Of A Mississippi Town Wait And Worry. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/11/17/778611834/months-after-massive-ice-raid-residents-of-a-mississippi-town-wait-and-worry