ICE Raids Impact Ministry
By Mike McAndrew, C.Ss.R.
ICE raided seven food processing plants in Mississippi on Wednesday, August 7. The raids impacted several communities: Forrest, Morton, Carthage, Canton, Bay Springs, and Sebastopol. The next day, people came to churches and other sites for information about their loved ones who were detained in the raids. News media outlets went to some of the sites to get stories on the plight of the workers, but since the raids took place in so many different communities, only some of their stories were reported.
On Thursday, August 8, I went to two small churches with volunteers to listen to the stories of families, who after 24 hours still had no knowledge of where their loved ones were. Many children born in the United States—from infants to teenagers—had no information about where their parents were taken.
Without this knowledge, they couldn’t even begin to seek legal aide. A lawyer said that they should be receiving calls from their loved ones after they are charged, and told the concerned family members that the first piece of information they need from the detainees is an Alien Identification number, which the detainees have on a wrist band.
It was then that we realized the utter helplessness of the families. Many said their spouses would not know their phone numbers if they were not allowed to use their cell phones. We realized that most of us have not memorized phone numbers—they are on our contact lists. Volunteers in Morton and Canton began taking basic information about detainees and gathered their contacts’ phone numbers for detainees to use after they had been located. There was no confidence that they would be able to gain access through ICE of the location and the Alien Identification numbers of detainees. It was a helpless feeling.
On Friday, August 9, we heard rumors of an ICE presence in communities that we serve: Greenwood, Indianola, Greenville, Vardaman and Houston. Fear kept many people from work for several days. Others didn’t work because they had relatives taken in the raids on Wednesday and they were busy seeking information about their loved ones. Fr. Ted Dorcey went to one food processing plant just to allay the fears of people in this area.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson and other religious leaders have spoken out well on behalf of the families and communities affected. We are grateful for some media coverage about the raids, but we want people to know that what the media has reported only came from a small part of the community affected. Many of the victims of the ICE raid are from Guatemala. They are asylum seekers and refugees. In the two churches where I met people, all the family members were from Guatemala, and most spoke a Mayan dialect. Spanish is the second language for most of them. Most of the detainees have lived in this country more than 10 years, and their children are U.S. citizens.
The Redemptorists in Greenwood, MS thank everyone for their prayers and support.
STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY
The Redemptorists of the Denver Province stand in solidarity with their brothers ministering to and accompanying the undocumented immigrant families in the Mississippi Delta who are increasingly fearful of deportation. We support the bishops who shepherd the faithful in the region – Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Bishop Louis F. Kihneman, III of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Bishop Brian R. Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Jackson, Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. of the MS Conference of the United Methodist Church, and The Rev. H. Julian Gordy, Bishop of the Southeastern Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – who call for an end to federal workplace raids that traumatize and separate families and create widespread panic in communities. We stand in solidarity with our Redemptorist confreres who are providing solace and spiritual support to these People of God, many of whom are asylum seekers and refugees who have been living in the United States for many years, and have children who are citizens of the United States.