After U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested nearly 700 people in sweeping raids in Mississippi, nearly half of those detained at several food-processing plants had been released within a day.
The practice appears to contradict the GOP administration’s promise to end “catch and release” and to detain illegal immigrants until they are deported but President Donald Trump consistently says one thing and does another.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Jere Miles and Mike Hurst, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said about 30 immigrants were released on humanitarian grounds the same day they were initially detained.
They said another 270 immigrants were released after being processed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) at the National Guard base in Pearl and returned to the place where they were picked up.
“All those detained yesterday were asked when they arrived at the processing center whether they had any children who were at school or childcare and needed to be picked up,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney.
“If HSI encountered two alien parents with minor children at home, HSI released one of the parents on humanitarian grounds and returned that individual to the place from which they were arrested,” said the spokesperson. “HSI similarly released any single alien parent with minor children a home on humanitarian grounds and physically returned that person to the place where he or she was originally detained.”
Still, the raids caused severe problems for many children, including many American citizens whose parents were swept up,
An 18-year-old girl named Stefany told NBC News she did not know where her father and aunt were.
The teenager was becoming increasingly worried about her brother Nery, who is 6-year-old and autistic.
Since the raids, Nery has refused to eat.
“I’m really scared because I don’t know what to do,” said Stefany, the oldest of six children, who asked their last names not be used out of concern for the family’s safety.
Stefany said her father was driving his sister to work Wednesday morning, with his 3-year-old daughter Ingrid in the car. They then saw that the food processing plant in Morton, where they both worked was being raided by ICE.
Stefany, a high school senior in Morton, said she was in school when she heard the news.
Included among those released in the Mississippi raids were 18 juveniles, with the youngest being 14 years old.
All of those detained were interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed by ICE agents, but fewer than half were processed for removal from the United States, and transported to an ICE facility in Jena, Louisiana.
A plant owned by Illinois-based poultry producer Koch Foods in Morton, Miss., was among five plants targeted in Wednesday’s raids, which involved a total of about 600 ICE officers.
Federal agents executed multiple criminal search warrants for evidence relating to various federal crimes, in what is called the largest single-state work site enforcement action in U.S. history.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute estimates there are about 1.7 million individuals who are unlawfully in the U.S. that have been ordered to leave the country.
Conservative Republicans have refused to update the nation’s immigration laws because the issue excites their base voters but the rhetoric being used and the policies being implemented affect millions of people, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Despite the cost to taxpayers and harm done to families caught up in Trump’s immigration nightmare, the raids, deportations and various actions at the border will have little impact on the lives of ordinary Americans, few of whom support draconian measures.
Child welfare services were left grappling with children whose parents had been arrested at one of the seven Mississippi food processing plants targeted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday.
“We are a law enforcement agency, not a social services agency,” said one ICE official, who added that any advance notice to agencies or schools could have alerted undocumented immigrants and botched the publicity stunt.
“The immigrants being mistreated in detention facilities, ripped away from their families or targeted by ICE raids have powerful allies among the American people,” said Lisa McCormick, a human rights advocate. “At some point Trump supporters are going to realize this inhuman cruelty does not make their lives better.”
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