Human and civil rights advocates in Mississippi and across the country called out the Trump administration Thursday after federal immigration agents raided food processing plants throughout the state Wednesday night, arresting nearly 700 workers and leaving many children separated from their parents.
"We are deeply concerned that the raids have separated Mississippians' families, disrupted our local economy, and diverted our state's limited resources to support Trump's mass deportation agenda."
—Joshua Tom, ACLU
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the group's Mississippi chapter, in a joint statement, denounced the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids as "horrific" and "the mark of an administration devoid of moral character."
"At a time when the president should be working to promote unity and heal division in our country, these raids will sow fear, pain, and discord across our already wounded country," warned the NAACP. "Instead of ripping families apart, we should be providing opportunities for these hardworking individuals to earn a pathway to citizenship."
Joshua Tom, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, blasted President Donald Trump for the coordinated ICE raids, which collectively were the largest single-state immigration enforcement action ever.
"President Trump continues to terrorize our communities with these unnecessary and cruel ICE raids," said Tom. "We are deeply concerned that the raids have separated Mississippians' families, disrupted our local economy, and diverted our state's limited resources to support Trump's mass deportation agenda."
Tom vowed that his organization is committed to aiding impacted families and called other local law enforcement "to cooperate with the president's anti-immigrant policies."
The ACLU's state chapter was among the more than 30 groups that joined a Thursday afternoon press conference at NAACP headquarters to discuss how the raids have been devastating for workers and families in the state.
"What happened yesterday shocked the world. What happened tore apart Mississippi families who have been here for a long time," declared Tom.
HAPPENING NOW: Over 30 community organizations including @MIRAStruggle, @justice4ms, @ACLU_MS, @splcenter, and @MacArthrJustice come together to respond to the Mississippi #ICERaids. Follow along this thread for live updates from @cliffjohnsonms. pic.twitter.com/WNQ9wRhdhL
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— MacArthur Justice (@MacArthrJustice) August 8, 2019
Cliff Johnson, director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, who also spoke at the news conference, said that "this is not our choice. This was decided from the highest levels, starting with the Trump administration."
"In less than a week we've seen mass shootings rooted in white nationalism, and a mass raid of hundreds of immigrant workers and parents. These events have been directly and indirectly provoked by the Trump administration."
—Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera
Johnson added that although there may be many people in the state who voted for Trump or would chant "Build that Wall" at a campaign rally, the raids targeting the plant workers were not what the people of the Mississippi wanted. As he put it, "This is not who we are."
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, was among critics of the raids—including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who linked the administration's move to the recent massacre in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman who echoed Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric killed 22 people.
Trump's call for unity in the wake of mass shootings in both El Paso and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend has been met with outrage from critics who connected the president's remarks and actions targeting immigrants to hatred and violence.
"In less than a week we've seen mass shootings rooted in white nationalism, and a mass raid of hundreds of immigrant workers and parents," Neumann-Ortiz said in a statement Thursday. "These events have been directly and indirectly provoked by the Trump administration. They are intended to intimidate, degrade and insight further violence and separation of families."
"Our answer must be to continue to grow and escalate our resistance to raids and a toxic culture of xenophobia and racism," said Neumann-Ortiz. "We encourage people to get involved in efforts, to publicly condemn these actions, use civil disobedience and direct action to prevent ICE raids, and demand that our U.S. congressional representatives defund ICE and [U.S. Customs and Border Protection]."