JACKSON - Just one day after U.S. immigration officials arrested 680 immigrant workers at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants, Mississippi civil rights organizations and leaders gathered for a press conference Thursday to talk about the impact the raids were having on the community and some next steps.
The Mississippi Immigration Rights Alliance (MIRA), alongside the ACLU of Mississippi, Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, People’s Advocacy Institute, NAACP and others gathered at the NAACP Headquarters in Jackson to host a press conference at 2 p.m.
MIRA executive director Bill Chandler introduced a variety of MIRA board members, religious leaders and partners as speakers to denounce the recent raids. During one speech, Chandler criticized comments U.S. attorney Mike Hurst made about following the law and said they were immoral.
“We remember what happened in El Paso and we know what happened yesterday. They are two of the same kind of acts,” Chandler said.
According to AP reports, the raids were planned months in advance and happened shortly before President Donald Trump visited El Paso, Texas after 22 people were killed in a mass shooting by a man who targeted the city for having a majority-Latino population. AP reported that ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said in an email that over 300 of those arrested were released by Thursday morning.
MIRA attorney and Legal Project Director Patricia Ice became tearful while discussing her 20 years of experience doing this kind of work and cited a past raid in Ellisville as proof that this issue was going to have impacts on the local community for years to come.
“Eleven years ago, we were attacked, if you will, by the Department of Homeland Security in Ellisville, Mississippi at the Howard Industries plant. I am still working with people who were affected by that raid all these years later, so these types of events have long lasting effects,” Ice said.
MIRA shared that with the help of the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, they had a hotline for families who were affected by the raids to call. The number is 978-993-3300 and only available for families, not general inquiries or questions.
Ice also thanked both the Jackson mayor and mayor of Canton for reaching out to the organization.
Interim Executive Director for the ACLU of Mississippi, Joshua Tom, shared the following statement during the conference:
“What happened yesterday shocked Mississippi and the world. We’ve been getting calls from press from other countries. The raid yesterday is not fixing American’s broken immigration system. What it is doing is tearing apart long time Mississippi residents and families. This is yet again a family separation event. We in Mississippi say to Mr. Trump, ‘No. We are not for the anti-immigration and mass deportation agenda.’”
The NAACP and Southern Poverty Law Center were among organizations that stated they stood in solidarity with MIRA and would do what was needed to help them. Near the end of the press conference, Chandler said those who wanted to help could do so by calling the community line at 978-993-3300 or calling the MIRA office at (601) 968-5182.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.