By Sandra G. Leon
Federal agents raided seven food processing plants in Mississippi on Wednesday and arrested 680 undocumented immigrants during the planned sweeps.
The investigations had been on-going for months based on tips from other employees that provided evidence of the undocumented workers, some even using video and audio recordings
The raids happened on the first day of school in the area, leaving hundreds of children without one or both parents at home by the time school was out in the afternoon. By the end of the day, dozens of the workers had been processed and released while their cases are assigned to courts.
“I need my dad, he’s not a criminal,” a young girl told local TV station WJTV after the raids.
ICE Acting Director Matt Albence provided updates to media outlets throughout the day, and said some workers would be released but they would be required to wear GPS tracking devices on their ankles while their cases are pending.
The raids took place at in six cities in Mississippi; Bay Springs, Canton, Carthage, Morton, Pelahatchie, and Walnut Grove. Two plants in Morton were raided.
Some children whose parents were detained spent the night at a local gym until other relatives or friends could pick them up.
Child advocates were quick to condemn the raids as dangerous to children who were left alone at home when both parents were detained. Some children were picked up by strangers who volunteered to care for them on Wednesday night.
The raids were part of an on-going investigations that used confidential informants to provide evidence of undocumented immigrants working at the plants, including the names of managers and supervisors that knew workers did not have legal status to work.
In one of the cases, authorities claim a supervisor at a plant was collecting between $500 and $800 from each undocumented worker hired there. The informants provided not only names but also even recorded supervisors and other employees discussing the undocumented workers.
Critics of the raids complained that they were excessive and designed to intimidate and harass the Latino community.
US Senator Kamala Harris, a Democratic candidate for President, released a video statement saying that the raids were “designed to tear families apart, spread fear, and terrorize communities.”
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, also a Democratic candidate for President, tweeted that the raids were “a disaster of choice, including the choice to harm these innocent children.” Buttigieg said our “nation will be judged for this.”
Raids at large businesses have increased during the time Donald Trump has been President. In 2017, then-Acting ICE Director Tom Homan promised to duadruple workplace crackdowns, saying that they would go after employers and employees alike.
“Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove illegal alien workers,” he said at the time.
ICE provided no information this week about arrests or charges filed against any of the owners, managers, or supervisors at the plants that were raided.