Federal immigration police arrested 680 people in a series of raids in Mississippi on Wednesday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said the sweep was the culmination of a year’s work focused on agriculture firms that had reportedly hired undocumented workers.
The morning raids at workplaces created confusion at schools around the state later in the day, as the children of people arrested were reportedly left uncertain where to go and what to do when their parents did not arrive to pick them up at the end of the day. A woman BuzzFeed News identified only as Dianne told the site her fiancé and his ex-wife had each been arrested in raids at two separate plants, leaving their 13-, 15-, and 19-year-old children in a difficult situation.
In some cases, the site reported, community efforts to care for children in such situations were thwarted when the adults who tried to come collect their friends’ kids were not registered with their schools.
One video from a worksite that was raided showed a young child crying in a parking lot outside a worksite. In another, an ICE agent explains to an arrested woman’s friends that she would be released later in the day and given a notice to appear for immigration proceedings.
“She’s not going to be deported, because she has a United States citizen child,” the agent tells the friends and family of a woman arrested at a poultry plant in the city of Morton.
“I’ve been working on that plant for 19 years,” Koch Foods plant worker Elizabeth Iraheta told the Washington Post. “They are not looking for criminals. They’re looking at work sites for people who came to this country to work, who came to fight for their family.”
The Mississippi action followed a lengthy investigation into hiring practices in the state’s agricultural industry, and there did not appear to be other sweeps happening at the same time, despite the Trump administration promising for months it would launch a coordinated roundup and deportation of undocumented families. The administration has hinted it would target cities, rather than rural areas.
On Wednesday night in New York City, officials with the city’s homelessness services agency said a crew of ICE agents attempted to gain entry to a shelter to search for a specific individual. Guards at the shelter entrance insisted the agents produce a warrant signed by a judge, pursuant to the city’s sanctuary policies. They declined to give one and were sent away, according to the New York Daily News.