Patricia Ice, director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance Legal Project, addressed Aug. 7 ICE raids at a press conference in Jackson. "We're not going to stop protesting. We're not going to stop decrying all this until it is ended," she said. Photo by Ashton Pittman
JACKSON—Jason Coker told a packed crowd at the NAACP offices in Jackson today to protest yesterday's immigrant raids in Mississippi that he had dropped off his 8-year-old daughter for her first day of school this morning, and his two boys took the bus to school. "As a father, it is very difficult for me to imagine how my own children would feel if I didn't come home today," he told the media. "If their mother didn't come home and they were all alone.
"I have no idea what my children would do," Coker, the field coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi, told the media. "As a religious leader, I cannot think of anywhere in our holy scriptures where this sort of thing would be OK. In fact, how scriptures tell us just the opposite."
The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance hosted the press conference in response to multiple ICE workplace raids on Aug. 7 in which 650 special Homeland Security Investigation special agents executed unspecified administrative and criminal search warrants at seven sites in Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie, Bay Springs, Walnut Grove and Carthage in Mississippi. The raid resulted in the detention of 680 undocumented immigrants.
Advocates, supporters, local leaders and organizations, some from Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga., came out in solidarity of the undocumented immigrants and in support of MIRA's efforts to protect immigrants in Mississippi.
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Attorney Patricia Ice, director of the MIRA Legal Project, said she was sorry that people even had to be here and made reference to a large Department of Homeland Security immigrant raid that took place at Howard Industries, an electronic manufacturing plant, in 2008 in Laurel, Miss.
"I'm still working with people who are still affected by that raid all these years later. These types of events have long lasting effects, and it is devastating for our community," Ice told the media.
Ice told the Jackson Free Press that MIRA does not know what is going to happen to the children, but she thinks the Mississippi Child Protective Services and the school system are now trying to help them. U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst released a statement today, a full day after the raids, maintaining that a system for protecting the children was in place prior to the arrests, although accounts on the ground have said that many children were stranded and terrified with no one to help them.
Three hundred detainees were released, Hurst said, for "humanitarian" reasons to return to their children, and Ice thinks CPS, once it knew about the stranded children, was trying to reunite detained parents with their children. "But that doesn't mean the parents are off the hook by today.They're still going to be put in immigration proceedings, removal proceedings. This is not the end of the problems," she said.
Luis Espinoza, an organizer for MIRA, has been visiting the communities where ICE rounded up people. He said the detainees' needs include legal assistance, money and food.
Wayne Daniels, president of the Jackson chapter of the NAACP, gave his full support of MIRA and said the organization will do whatever it can to support the organization. He said this is a prime example of what happens when not enough people turn out to vote.
"First, they came for the Jews. We said nothing. Then they came for the Unionists. We said nothing. Yesterday, they came for the Hispanic community. Here we are today. Who they gone come after tomorrow? People that look like us," Daniels said.
Ongoing coverage of the politics and treatment of immigrants and refugees in Mississippi
Ice said she is pleased with the outpouring of support for MIRA. She said even though she is not Latina and her ancestors came to America on a slave ship, she still identifies and empathizes with the plight of undocumented immigrants.
"We're not going to stop protesting. We're not going to stop decrying all this until it is ended. That may be a long time from now, but we stand ready to continue the protest until things like this don't happen anymore," she told the Jackson Free Press.
Ice said people can donate to MIRA and those donations will go to general needs until they find another place for people to donate to help the raid victims directly. She said they can donate to the organization's website. Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SIRN) set up a hotline for families affected by raids to call. The hotline number is 978-993-3300, and live people will answer the phone 24/7.
Follow Jackson Free Press reporting intern Aliyah Veal on Twitter @AliyahJFP. Send tips to [email protected].