ABOVE: Friends, coworkers and family watch as U.S. immigration officials raid several Mississippi food processing plants, including this Koch Foods Inc., plant in Morton, Miss., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The early morning raids were part of a large-scale operation targeting owners as well as undocumented employees. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
As Rachel Maddow says, “Watch what they do, not what they say.”
As President Trump arrived to meet with the victims of the worst domestic terrorist attack in modern-day American history against Mexican-Americans in El Paso at the hands of a gunman who professed to carry out a white supremacist “manifesto” against an “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the Trump administration was carrying out the largest ICE immigration raid in over a decade in Mississippi.
The Jackson Free Press reports, ICE Raids Food Plants on Day of Trump Visit to Grieving City:
U.S. immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 mostly Latino workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at least a decade.
The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit El Paso, Texas, the majority-Latino city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead in the border city.
Workers filled three buses — two for men and one for women — at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in tiny Morton, 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Jackson. They were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations. About 70 family, friends and residents waved goodbye and shouted, “Let them go! Let them go!” Later, two more buses arrived.
About 600 agents fanned out across the plants involving several companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing. They occurred in small towns near Jackson with a workforce made up largely of Latino immigrants, including Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie and Sebastapol.
Koch Foods, based in Park Ridge, Illinois, is one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S. and employs about 13,000 people, with operations in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee.
#Forbes ranks it as the 135th largest privately held company in the U.S., with an estimated $3.2 billion in annual revenue. The Morton plant produces more than 700,000 tons of poultry feed a year, company officials said in February. The company has no relation to prominent conservative political donors and activists Charles and David Koch.
Immigration agents also hit a Peco Foods Inc. plant in Canton, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Jackson. The company, based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says it is the eighth-largest poultry producer in the U.S. A company representative did not immediately respond to a telephone call or email seeking comment.
The Jackson Free Press further reports, Advocates: In Mississippi, ICE Agents Arrest, Tase Migrants, Documented or Not:
Children finished their first day of school with no parents to go home to tonight. Babies and toddlers remained at daycare with no guardian to pick them up. A child vainly searched a workplace parking lot for missing parents.
Report by Alex Love from KNOE News 8 (CBS), Forest, MS. Children left without parents after Mississippi ICE raids.
Those are some of the many stories immigrants’ rights advocates told the Jackson Free Press they heard on Wednesday in calls with school officials, coworkers and distressed family members of immigrants whom ICE rounded up in Mississippi today.
On Wednesday morning in Mississippi, the Homeland Security Investigations unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE , coordinated with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, Mike Hurst, to carry out what they called the “largest single-state worksite enforcement action in (the) nation’s history.”
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Advocates at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, or MIRA, spent Wednesday afternoon scrambling to answer calls from distressed family members and to find out exactly what was happening. “We’re now trying to deal with schools because of the children that may be left behind by ICE,” MIRA President Bill Chandler said.
‘They Tased Him, Knocked Him to the Ground’
#MIRA organizer Luis Espinoza traveled to Canton on Wednesday to help families trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next, Chandler said. ICE agents attempted to arrest at least one U.S. citizen at the plant in Canton, Chandler reported.
“In Canton, there was a young man who was working there that protested the arrests because he was an American citizen,” Chandler said. “And they tased him, knocked him to the ground, and put handcuffs on him before they finally figured out that he was an American citizen.”
As MIRA understands it, Chandler said, ICE will “sort” the detainees at a facility in Jena, La. Some who have prior violations or have committed felonies will be locked up in facilities to await deportation trials, while others will be returned to their homes at some point with ankle bracelets. That is tantamount to “house arrest,” he said. He added that he doubts agents will find many, if any, felons among those arrested today.
Hurst: ‘We’re Coming After You’
In Hurst’s press conference on Tuesday, he said the raids were simply about upholding the law.
“While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that we are first and foremost, a nation of laws. The rule of law is the bedrock, the very foundation of our great country. Without law, there is no order. Without the enforcement of law, there is no justice,” said Hurst, whom Donald Trump nominated to the post in 2017.
Hurst suggested more raids may be coming, and said that employers who hire undocumented immigrants should watch out.
“For those who take advantage of illegal aliens, to those who use illegal aliens for competitive advantage or to make a quick buck, we have something to say to you. If we find that you have violated federal criminal law, we’re coming after you,” Hurst said.
Bullshit! Adolfo Flores at Buzzfeed reports, Hundreds Of Their Employees Were Arrested In An ICE Raid. They Went Home Without A Charge.
While hundreds of suspected undocumented immigrants were arrested Wednesday in a series of workplace raids that split up families and left communities terrified, their employers went home as if it were any other business day.
The ICE operation hit seven work sites and five different employers, authorities said. Of the 680 people arrested in the raids, 271 were released with orders to appear before an immigration judge, and 377 are still in ICE custody. Unlike the hundreds of employees who were detained and face the threat of deportation, the employers at the five companies haven’t been criminally charged or arrested.
Mike Hurst, US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, declined to say if any of the employers would face charges for hiring undocumented workers, citing an “open criminal investigation.” The employers are still not completely in the clear and could be subject to fines or charges in the coming months, but data shows the likelihood of prosecution is extremely low.
An analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found that during April 2018 and March 2019 only 11 employers — individuals, not companies — were prosecuted for hiring immigrants without proper documentation. During that same period 120,344 people were prosecuted for illegal entry or illegal re-entry.
Since criminal penalties for employers were first enacted by Congress in 1986, few employers have ever been prosecuted, the TRAC analysis said.
That’s because US immigration laws restricting the hiring of undocumented workers are heavily skewed in favor of employers, and in most cases they are never charged, said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute office at the New York University School of Law.
“It’s only a handful of employers who have gone to jail,” Chishti told BuzzFeed News.
Federal law doesn’t penalize employers for hiring undocumented workers, he said. Instead, it goes after the employer for not checking people’s documents or knowingly hiring unauthorized employees.
“I call it the ‘knowingly loophole,'” Chishti said. “It’s the knowingly that provides the employer a major defense in such actions… You can always play dumb.”
Angela Stuesse writes at the Washington Post, The poultry industry recruited them. Now ICE raids are devastating their communities. (excerpt):
And they do so because they were literally invited, recruited and incentivized to come. For ICE to be conducting raids in Mississippi ignores this history and ignores how the poultry workers recruited to these towns a quarter century ago have laid down roots. They have made Mississippi home and raised families.
The Jackson Free Press follows up on the status of the children left separated from their parents. After ICE Raids, Some Kids Reunited with Parents or Relatives in Mississippi:
Only a handful of children were so lucky to be reunited with their parents, though, Slaughter-Harvey said today. In Scott County, the site of one of the chicken plants that a coalition of ICE, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst raided Wednesday, she spent last night helping to place about 30 children whose parents had been taken away. She had to look for relatives who could care for the children with no warning after the sudden raids that resulted in ICE agents from around the U.S. coming to Mississippi to arrest almost 700 people on unspecified charges.
By evening, and after a huge uproar especially over stranded children around the state with many of the children in school on the first day of the semester, the feds allowed at least some families to be reunited. That was confirmed in a press release at noon today from Hurst and ICE that does not, however, reflect the chaos reported from schools where children were left inside or in parking lots looking for their parents.
Slaughter-Harvey described uncertainty, fear and tears among children and adults. “Those parents were brought back home, some of the mothers,” she said. “And don’t ask me how they determined who was going to be released because I have no idea.”
Today, about noon, the joint press release from ICE and U.S. Attorney Hurst arrived announcing the release of some 300 of those arrested and united with children after the feds “concluded their processing of detained aliens last night and followed their procedures by releasing many on humanitarian grounds,” Jere Miles, HSI Special Agent in Charge in New Orleans, and Hurst said in the new release.
“Preliminarily, it appears that approximately 30 detained aliens were released yesterday on humanitarian grounds at the individual sites where they were initially encountered, and another 270 detained aliens were released after being processed by HSI at the National Guard base in Pearl and returned to the place where they were originally encountered,” the release stated.
‘Nobody Knew About It’
The Jackson Free Press asked Slaughter-Harvey if she knew if anyone at the Mississippi Department of Human Services or the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services was notified before the raids. From what she has gathered, she said, “nobody knew about it.”
Sarah Fowler reported in The Clarion-Ledger today that CPS has scrambled in the last 24 hours to find all the children and does not know for sure how many were affected.
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In the release, Hurst and ICE are clearly responding to a groundswell of criticism in the last 24 hours, especially about what seems to have been a lack of planing for the children’s welfare and mental health over losing their parents on their first day of school.
The release responds this way: “[If] HSI encountered two alien parents with minor children at home, HSI released one of the parents on humanitarian grounds and returned that individual to the place from which they were arrested. HSI similarly released any single alien parent with minor children at home on humanitarian grounds and physically returned that person to the place where he or she was originally detained. Based on these procedures, it is believed that all children were with at least one of their parents as of last night.”
ICE and Hurst also released a phone number publicly for the first time 24 hours after the raids, at least to media, that stranded children, or whomever is helping them, can call: “If there are children who are without parents, individuals are required by state law to contact Mississippi Child Protective Services (“CPS”) at 1-800-222-8000. CPS will assist in taking care of that child and placing the child in a safe foster care home or licensed facility.”
The Jackson Free Press published this public service announcement today with detailed information on how you can help the children of the immigrants detained in the ICE raid. Mississippi ICE Raids: How to Help Children, Families (Updated with GoFundMe Link).
There is also a public backlash to the Ice raids in Mississippi. Mississippians Mobilize Against ICE Raids: ‘Who They Gone Come After Tomorrow?’