In Mississippi, ICE Agents Arrest, Tase Migrants, Documented or Not

By Ashton Pittman

August 08, 2019 "Information Clearing House" -  Children finished their first day of school with no parents to go home to tonight. Babies and toddlers remained at daycare with no guardian to pick them up. A child vainly searched a workplace parking lot for missing parents.

Those are some of the many stories immigrants' rights advocates told the Jackson Free Press they heard on Wednesday in calls with school officials, coworkers and distressed family members of immigrants whom ICE rounded up in Mississippi today.

On Wednesday morning in Mississippi, the Homeland Security Investigations unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE , coordinated with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, Mike Hurst, to carry out what they called the "largest single-state worksite enforcement action in (the) nation's history."

At a 2 p.m. press conference, Hurst said they were rounding up undocumented immigrants who are working in the United States or who might have committed some other crime, but was not specific about charges.

"Let them go! Let them go!" the Associated Press reported family members, including children, crying as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents loaded immigrants onto buses outside a plant where they worked in Morton, Miss.

ICE carried out raids in five other Mississippi cities, including Bay Springs, Carthage, Sebastopol, Pelahatchie and Canton. Altogether, ICE rounded up 680 immigrant workers and loaded them onto buses. Hurst said they would go to a Louisiana ICE facility for "processing."

Advocates at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, or MIRA, spent Wednesday afternoon scrambling to answer calls from distressed family members and to find out exactly what was happening. "We're now trying to deal with schools because of the children that may be left behind by ICE," MIRA President Bill Chandler said.

'They Tased Him, Knocked Him to the Ground'

MIRA organizer Luis Espinoza traveled to Canton on Wednesday to help families trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next, Chandler said. ICE agents attempted to arrest at least one U.S. citizen at the plant in Canton, Chandler reported.

"In Canton, there was a young man who was working there that protested the arrests because he was an American citizen," Chandler said. "And they tased him, knocked him to the ground, and put handcuffs on him before they finally figured out that he was an American citizen."

As MIRA understands it, Chandler said, ICE will "sort" the detainees at a facility in Jena, La. Some who have prior violations or have committed felonies will be locked up in facilities to await deportation trials, while others will be returned to their homes at some point with ankle bracelets. That is tantamount to "house arrest," he said. He added that he doubts agents will find many, if any, felons among those arrested today.

"We're trying to put together all the pieces of what (Hurst and an ICE representative) were saying. They were not real clear at the conference," Chandler said. "But we have been talking to the relatives of the victims, so we'll know more later on."


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