Seven ICE raids in Mississippi on Wednesday have resulted in the arrests of 680 people—the largest immigration raid that’s ever happened in the U.S. in a single state. The raids took place at several food processing plants in small towns near Jackson, which have a large population of Latino immigrants. Some of those who were arrested were working parents whose kids had just started school, the Clarion Ledger reports.
Scott County Superintendent Tony McGee told the Clarion Ledger that at least six families from his school district of about 4,000 students had a parent taken into custody, but the confirmed total could be higher. According to the Scott County school website, the official first day of school was August 6, meaning the raids occurred just a day after the start of the new school year.
For other children whose parents were arrested, Wednesday was their first day of school, CNN reports.
In response to the raids, Scott County teachers and staff have received instructions to ensure their students’ safety. For instance, McGee told the Clarion Ledger that school bus drivers must get a “visual reference to a parent or guardian” before dropping off a student at a residence. If there are no parents at home, the child is to be driven back to school.
“We’re going to be here at the school until we make sure that every child is home safe or has a safe place to go,” McGee said. “We’re going to make sure our kids are taken care of first.”
McGee also told the Clarion Ledger that right now, the main focus is “supporting families.” “You can’t expect a child to stay focused on the schoolwork when he’s trying to focus on where Mom and Dad are.”
According to CNN affiliate WJTV, in the town of Forest, kids whose guardians were arrested during the raids, and had no one to care for them after school, were taken to a community gym by strangers and neighbors on Wednesday night. There, volunteers gave them donated food and drinks, but most kids were crying.
One child, Magdalena Gomez Gregorio, 11, who was brought to the community gym, told WJTV, “Government please show some heart.”
Currently, there are several videos of children whose parents were reportedly arrested during the raids on writer and activist Shaun King’s Instagram, including the following:
It’s not yet known how many people who were detained have children at home, ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told the Clarion Ledger yesterday. He also mentioned that of the people taken into custody, “not everyone is going to be (permanently) detained,” and that “ICE makes custody determination on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of their circumstances.”
Commenting on the raids on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst released the following statement:
“The execution of federal search warrants today was simply about enforcing the rule of law in our state and throughout our great country. I commend these federal agents, our state and local law enforcement partners, and our federal prosecutors for their professionalism and dedication to ensure that those who violate our laws are held accountable. We are a nation of laws, and we will remain so by continuing to enforce our laws and ensuring that justice is done.”
The mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, also released a statement, calling the raids “dehumanizing and ineffective.”
“The City of Jackson is firmly committed to promoting and securing safe communities. We unflinchingly uphold the canon of human rights for human beings. The ICE raids are both dehumanizing and ineffective as a tactic for protecting citizens from potential harm. These raids will only further alienate communities from law enforcement, disrupt community policing efforts, and cause law enforcement to forfeit credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve,” he wrote.
According to CNN, a senior immigration official told them that ICE used confidential informants who worked at several of the food processing plants that were raided in order to find out which managers or supervisors were knowingly hiring undocumented workers.