Nearly 700 employees at seven worksites across Mississippi were arrested last Wednesday in what has been deemed “the largest immigration enforcement sweep in a single state in U.S. history.” Within a day, approximately 300 were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), pending a later court appearance before a federal immigration judge.
The agents were executing warrants to arrest the “illegal aliens,” according to Mike Hurst, US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. “They have to follow our laws, they have to abide by our rules, they have to come here legally or they shouldn’t come here at all.”
The raids were defended by U.S. authorities saying the secretive operation was successful, despite the fact that the Department of Child Protection Services and local schools were left struggling with children who went home to find their parents weren’t there.
The strongest criticism of the raids lies in the lack of preparation for the effect of missing parents, which required quick actions by the school districts and the welfare services.
ICE officials said in a press release that they allowed those arrested to make a phone call to neighbors or relatives who could provide child care, and also notified schools across the area after the raids were underway that some of their students could be affected.
Despite these efforts, the images we’ve seen through various media following the arrests – terrified, crying children huddled together in their schools and with neighbors, with no one to take care of them – are hard to dismiss from our minds.
It is evident from these and past raids that there is no systematic plan in place to deal with the children left behind. One can’t imagine the trauma they are enduring now, nor the long-term effects of these actions.
We believe the law should be followed, but we also believe it’s time to remember human beings are involved, families and children. As much planning as is necessary to carry out these raids, the same should be made to deal with those left behind. Tearing families apart isn’t the answer.