Wednesday was the first day of school for children in Mississippi. By the end of the school day, an unknown number of immigrant children were homeless. Hours earlier, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted massive raids at 7 food processing plants, detaining 680 undocumented immigrant workers.
The raids were conducted by 600 agents and local law enforcement who fanned out across multiple towns around Jackson, Mississippi at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Anyone without proper identification papers was detained for processing.
Legal aliens, aka green card holders, must present their green cards on demand or they too face deportation.
By Wednesday night, 300 of the 680 detainees – mostly single mothers – were released from custody. About 30 of the 300 released migrants were bused back to the plant where they were taken from.
ICE did not contact the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services prior to the start of the early-morning raids, according to the Clarion Ledger.
24 hours after the raids, MDCPS workers still did not know how many immigrant children were left without at least one parent at home. School bus drivers were instructed to return the children to school if a parent or a guardian was not at home.
Members of the public, who found children crying in the street, brought the children to a community center gym where they were fed pizza. But some of the children were too distraught to eat.
More images as volunteers try to feed the kids donated food and drinks for dinner tonight. But most children are still devastated and crying for their parents and can’t eat. FULL STORY TONIGHT ON @WJTV. #FocusedOnYou pic.twitter.com/C6uV6A7Lng
— Alex Love (@AlexLoveWJTV) August 8, 2019
Moments after the raids began, Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services spokesperson Lea Anne Brandon called foster parents who could take the children in. Members of the public called to offer meals and beds to homeless children.
“We’ve been up all night trying to figure this out,” said Brandon.
Thursday morning, workers in the affected counties began checking with the schools and churches to “identify children who may have been alone last night,” she said.
Brandon said the agency still had not heard from ICE officials on Thursday.
Bryan Cox, ICE spokesperson, was unapologetic for the lack of communication, saying, “Law enforcement arrests people every day who may have children.”
Cox said everyone taken into custody on Wednesday was asked if they had children in schools or at home. He said everyone who had a child at home would be processed “expeditiously.”
Cox said he did not know how many children were left without a parent or guardian at home.
If a couple was detained with minor children at home, one of them would be released on “humanitarian grounds,” according to a press release issued Thursday by U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst.
“Based on these procedures, it is believed that all children were with at least one of their parents as of last night,” the press release stated.
By Thursday evening, some of the children still were not reunited with their parents.
“Government please show some heart,” an 11-year-old girl told WJTV. “Let my parent be free. I need my dad and mommy,” the girl said tearfully. “My dad didn’t do anything, he’s not a criminal.”
For parents who were not released from custody, agents provided cell phones so they could call family members or friends to make arrangements for their children.
Those who were not released from custody included criminals with outstanding arrest warrants and illegals who were given final deportation orders but did not leave the country.
Photos by LUKE MONTAVON/AFP/Getty Images, PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images