The rural Mississippi towns of Morton, Sebastopol, Canton, Bay Springs, Carthage and Pelahatchie were disrupted and families members were detained on August 7 after approximately 600 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations deportation officers were dispatched by the Homeland Security Investigations unit.
Poultry provider Peco Foods, which had facilities raided in Bay Springs, Canton and Sebastopol, confirmed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) presence via a statement to local outlet WDAM.
“We are fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation and are navigating a potential disruption of operations,” the company said. “We adhere strongly to all local, state and federal laws including utilizing the government-based E-Verify program which screens new hires through Social Security Administration as well as the Department of Homeland Security for compliance.”
In addition to disrupting the immediate economy, the raids also led to children, most of whom are American citizens and began their first day of school on Wednesday, returning home to broken families.
Mary Townsend, director of El Pueblo Immigration Legal Services, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Thursday to discuss the realities of these raids and what they may mean for these close-knit, rural communities.
“I think the biggest number of those people are folks who’ve been working in that plant and that area for many years, some of them decades,” Townsend pointed out to hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. “They are hard-working, family people and … for many of them, their children came home to find one or both of their parents not there.”
CBS highlighted the pleas of 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio, whose father, an undocumented immigrant, was detained in the Wednesday raids.
Completely Broken— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) August 8, 2019
11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio begging for her father back taken by ICE
"Governments please put your heart. Let my parent be free. I need my dad by me. My dad didn't do anything. He is not a criminal." 💔😭
HOW CAN ANYONE JUSTIFY THIS?
This is NOT OK! pic.twitter.com/wZmm60uKf8
As it turns out, DHS and ICE were well aware the raids would occur during school hours.
“This was planned for months. Well before El Paso … We did this under past presidents. This is business as usual for us,” an ICE official explained in a statement to CNN, referring to the anti-Latino mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on August 3.
Townsend went on to explain that the combined strain of personal household income loss and indefinitely low workforce numbers will be a “huge blow” to the small towns and calls into question the factories’ abilities to maintain their presence in the area.
Carthage has the highest population of the targeted towns, with 4,956 residents, while Sebastopol only has an estimated 281, according to City-Data.com.
“Based on ... interviews, and consideration of their criminality and prior immigration history, ICE is determining on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of the circumstances which individuals will be detained and which persons may be released from custody at present,” ICE said in their Wednesday news release.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.