Two Koch Foods employees share what it was like at the plant when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raided Koch Foods.
Barbara Gauntt, Clarion-Ledger
Dozens of church and civil rights leaders gathered Thursday to oppose raids by U.S. immigration officials on several poultry processing plants in Mississippi.
The Thursday press conference was spearheaded by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, based in Jackson, but was attended by representatives from several church denominations from across metro Jackson.
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MIRA is working with the church groups, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP, to provide legal and financial resources for migrant families in need.
Leaders, representing the Baptist, Episcopalian and Catholic faiths, spoke in solidarity and with the ACLU and NAACP to condemn the Wednesday raids of seven poultry plants with majority migrant worker populations.
The comments were in stark opposition to those of Gov. Phil Bryant and many other Republican leaders who say the raids symbolized the necessary enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
Close to 700 migrants were originally swept up in the raids, representing the largest single state crackdown in close to a decade. About 300 were released the next day, some for humanitarian reasons.
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The raids took place on the first day of school, leaving some children without their parents by school day’s end.
ICE raids: Church, civil rights leaders speak out
Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law
“Mississippi didn’t ask for this. It doesn’t come from the people. We’ve got our own problems here. But this was not one of them. It was decided at the highest levels of the Trump administration, not here.”
Brandon Jones, policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center
“This is a crucial moment in Mississippi, a moral moment. It’s time for the church, individual and family to all work together to help those affected.”
Jason Cocker, field coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
“These raids should be appalling and reprehensible to all Christians. Those detained were decent, hard-working families just trying to do their best. Now they have to wonder, what are their children going to eat?”
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Nsombi Lambright, director of One Voice
“We will fight back and make sure the families are supported.”
The Rev. James Evans, co-founder of MIRA
Our fellow citizens, 5 years old, 6 years old, 11 years old, they went to go to school excited about the day. And terror hit them while they were gone. And they found out about it before dark.”
Brian Sage, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi
“What happened (Wednesday) was horrifying. I was horrified to see the image of a child separated from their parents and parents wondering about their children…I’m glad we can come together with open arms and get the families back together. Three-hundred have been released. That’s not enough.”
Justin McCreary, pastor of Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson
“Tonight, children will go to sleep afraid.”
Rukia Lumumba, director of the People’s Advocacy Institute and the sister of Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba
“Release them all. Stop the raids. Release our people.”
Patricia Ice, director of the MIRA Legal Project
“We won’t stop until these people are put on a path to citizenship and permanent residency.”
Luis Espinoza, MIRA staff member
“This is a horrible situation, and I was devastated to see what has resulted, but I’m happy to see so many come together today to help.”
Joint Statement of Bishops Joseph R. Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Louis A. Kihneman III of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Brian R. Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Jackson, James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church and H. JulianGordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
“Raids, such as those conducted on Wednesday in the central part of Mississippi, only serve to, as Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote last month in a letter to President Trump, “cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities.” We, the undersigned, condemn such an approach, which, as he rightly states, “has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the United States.”
To say that immigration reform is a contentious and complex topic would be an understatement. As Christians, within any disagreement we should all be held together by our baptismal promises. Our baptism, regardless of denomination calls us to unity in Jesus Christ. We are his body and, therefore, called to act in love as a unified community for our churches and for the common good of our local communities and nation. We can stand in solidarity to provide solace, material assistance and strength for the separated and traumatized children, parents and families. Of course, we are committed to a just and compassionate reform to our nation’s immigration system, but there is an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis.
Thank you for your concern, prayers and generosity.”
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Barbara Gauntt,/Clarion Ledger
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