U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested nearly 700 workers in a raid on seven chicken processing plants in Morton, MS, on Wednesday, leaving behind devastated children without parents to pick them up from school, let them into their homes, or feed them.
According to the Associated Press, most of the 680 workers arrested at the plants were Latinx. The raid had been planned months, long before a Texas man killed 22 people and injured 24 in El Paso, TX, his white supremacist manifesto promoting concerns of a “Hispanic invasion” of the country.
Mississippi news station WJTV reported that authorities said children affected by the raid would be placed with another family member, and that they worked with school officials to ensure the children are cared for. In some cases, parents could still be released for humanitarian reasons, WJTV reported.
Despite this, WJTV’s Alex Love reported that many children, left behind by the ICE agents who arrested their parents, had nowhere to go. (We’ve reached out to ICE for comment and will update this post if and when we hear back.)
In Forest, MS, Jordan Barnes, owner of the Clear Creek Boot Camp, opened his gym to community leaders to house children for Wednesday night, providing them with pizza for dinner and bedding to get them through the night.
Children relied on neighbors and strangers to pick them up outside their homes after school. They drove the children to a community center where people tried to keep them calm. But many kids could not stop crying for mom and dad.
Fighting back tears, Magdalena Gomez Gregorio, 11, expressed to us her devastation.
“Government please show some heart,” Gregoria cried. “Let my parent be free.”
Love’s photos and videos from the evening show devastated children clinging to adults and crying with others are eating on the gym floor.
The Mississippi raid was the largest workplace ICE raid in the past decade, shattering a previous record ICE set in April with more than 280 arrests at a phone equipment repair business in Allen, TX. Before that, the last biggest workplace raid was in Postville, IA in 2008, when almost 400 people were arrested.
According to the WJTV journalist on Thursday morning, all the children had been “returned to their original homes” or temporary ones with “distant relatives.” Barnes, the gym owner, also confirmed to Splinter that all the children had been united with family members.
But the damage is done. One woman, the godmother of two boys whose mother was arrested in the raid, told the news station that she felt helpless watching over them.
“He said his mom is gone, that he’s upset with Trump, he said he just wants his mom back,” Christina Peralta told WJTV. “And they’ve been crying all day long since they got home from school.”