FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Evelyn Servin
The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network stands firmly in solidarity with Immigrant communities in Mississippi after Congressional Hearing
JACKSON, MS, November 7- Today, the Homeland Security Committee of the House of Representatives heard and read harrowing testimony about the impact and aftermath of the Mississippi raids. On August 7th, 2019, The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN), along with the rest of the country, watched in disbelief as horrifying news unfolded across social media. More than six hundred ICE agents surrounded several poultry processing plants in central Mississippi---helicopters flying overhead--- closing off all exits to the properties and detaining 680 immigrant workers.
That same day, SEIRN joined other non-profit organizations, community organizers, and volunteers from Mississippi to help organize a rapid response relief effort to address the humanitarian crisis that resulted from the raids. Over the first four weeks after the raid, SEIRN mobilized its resources to bring 77 organizers from across the Southeast to assist the families in locating their loved ones in detention, assessing their humanitarian needs, coordinating legal intake clinics, and launching a rapid response Community Hotline to connect families with the appropriate resources. Since August 8th, the hotline has received over 3,548 calls and operators have talked to families for 14,209 minutes. They have heard the painful stories of families in rural Mississippi being ripped apart:
“We have had troubled mothers calling from Guatemala many times a week, spending their last quetzal on expensive international calls begging us to find their children,”
-- Community Hotline Operator.
“An eighty-year old grandfather tirelessly begged us to locate his youngest grandson and connect him via phone because he knew he was going to pass away without seeing or speaking to him one last time,”-- Community Hotline Operator.
“A new mother was extremely upset because her husband’s bond was rejected. She had a breakdown and burst into tears yelling how unfair everything was and how much she and the baby needed him. She had had her baby alone and her husband has never seen their new child. We cried together... that’s all that we could do,”--Community Hotline operators.
The Mississippi raids are a part of the current administration’s intensified persecution of immigrant families--- a deliberate, devastating show of force and a gaudy misuse of government resources just to meet quotas and to make private prisons more profitable. SEIRN stands firmly in solidarity with immigrant communities in Mississippi and urges that the following steps be immediately taken to ensure that the human rights of those detained are respected:
(1) exercise prosecutorial discretion to immediately release those individuals who are still detained, so that they may pursue their options for immigration relief and by granting relief such as parole, continued presence, or deferred action, to those individuals whose rights were violated during their arrests, pursuant to the 2011 ICE Victim’s Memo;
(2) provide individuals with meaningful access to the courts and legal counsel and forego the removal of any individual who has not had the opportunity to consult with an attorney and/or exhaust all potential legal claims relevant to the raid and their employer, as well as any immigration benefits for which they may qualify;
(3) ensure that exploited workers can cooperate with investigations into unlawful labor practices and receive back pay or money due to them.
SEIRN further calls on Members of Congress to:
(1) cut funding for ICE and CBP, including reducing funding for the operations of Homeland Security Investigations;
(2) to address mandatory detention laws that keep people locked up without due process, many of whom are picked up in enforcement operations like the Mississippi raid; and
(3) to enact legislation that increases work permits and protections for immigrant workers and includes a pathway to citizenship for immigrant workers and their families.