In the aftermath of raids in Mississippi that netted 680 accused illegal immigrants working for several food processing plants, at least one U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official was not apologizing for the disruption caused by the Wednesday operation.
The National Education Association and the Mississippi Association of Educators condemned ICE for the raids, saying they were “causing chaos and separating families” as the new school year opened in Mississippi.
“The trauma these students are enduring is inconceivable,” the statement said. “The effect the raids will have on their long-term mental and emotional health is profound.”
Although ICE officials took some steps to limit the damage to children whose parents were arrested, one ICE official said, “We are a law enforcement agency, not a social services agency,” NBC reported.
NBC did not name the official, who told the network that giving advance notice to social services agencies or schools could have alerted the illegal immigrants of the raids.
BREAKING: 680 people were arrested in an unprecedented ICE raid today. These are workers & parents who went to work this morning to provide for their families but were arrested in a massive raid. Families have been torn and communities irreparably harmed.https://t.co/etsaKLX2t8
— Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) August 7, 2019
The raids were applauded by Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, who then engaged in a brief Twitter spat with Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Glad to see that ICE is working hard to enforce our immigration laws. 680 aliens detained in Mississippi today. We must enforce our laws, for the safety of all Americans. Well done @USAttyHurst and @realDonaldTrump.
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) August 7, 2019
.@IlhanMN, it is wrong to demonize the brave work of our law enforcement and @ICEgov. They put their lives on the line for us; all you do is tweet. I stand with law enforcement. Your no-borders vision is a non-starter in Mississippi. https://t.co/ZBO6flQYtS
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) August 8, 2019
Matthew Albence, ICE’s acting director, said secrecy was essential to achieving the raid’s purpose.
“This was a textbook operation, carried out in a safe manner, and done securely,” Albence said, according to The Washington Post. “Officers were able to execute these warrants in a safe fashion.”
Jere Miles, the special agent in charge of the New Orleans office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Investigations unit, which coordinated the raids, said the agency kept the welfare of children in mind.
Illegal immigrants who were arrested were given access to phones to make arrangements for their children. Some with children under the age of 5 were released at their work site.
Many arrested were released after a day because officials were aware they had young children to care for, and were taken back to the point of their arrest.
“This is the only operation I am aware where . . . those released are actually taken back to their original point of detention so they are not stuck 60, 70 miles away,” said D. Michael Hurst Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, The Washington Post reported.
That did not change the minds of those criticizing the raids.
“We are deeply concerned that the raids have separated Mississippians’ families, disrupted our local economy, and diverted our state’s limited resources to support Trump’s mass deportation agenda,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi’s legal director and interim executive director Joshua Tom said in a statement, according to The Hill.
“Local law enforcement should refuse to cooperate with the president’s anti-immigrant policies. We stand in solidarity and are committed to help the families harmed.”
Greg Nevano, assistant director of investigative programs for HSI, said the raids show the Trump administration will uphold immigration and labor laws.
“Employers need to understand the integrity of their employment record is just as important to the federal government as the integrity of the tax records” they give the IRS, Nevano said.
Trump made that point as well when asked Friday about the children affected by the raids.
“The reason is, because you have to go in, you can’t let anybody know, otherwise when you get there, nobody will be there,” Trump said, according to NBC.
“But I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they are getting out. They’re going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent,” he said.
“And when people see what they saw yesterday, and like they will they’ll see for a long time, they’ll know that they’re not staying here.”
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