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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/10/19

Mass ICE Raids in Mississippi After Workers Fought for Better Conditions Leave Kids Without Parents

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swept through seven poultry processing plants in Mississippi this week and arrested 680 people. It was the largest single-state raid in U.S. history.

The mass arrests also came on the first day of the school year, and some children walked home from school only to find their doors locked and their family members missing. Wednesday's raids targeted chicken processing plants operated by Koch Foods, one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S.

Last year, the company paid out $3.75 million to settle an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission class-action suit charging the company with sexual harassment, national origin and race discrimination, and retaliation against Latino workers at one of its Mississippi plants. Labor activists say it's the latest raid to target factories where immigrant workers have organized unions, fought back against discrimination or challenged unsafe and unsanitary conditions. We speak with Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and L. Patricia Ice, legal projects director at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance.

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AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show looking at the fallout from the massive raid in Mississippi, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swept through seven poultry processing plants and arrested 680 people. It was the largest single-state raid in U.S. history. Officials say 300 detainees have now been released for, quote, "humanitarian" reasons.

The roundup of mostly Latino immigrant workers came as Latinos around the country said they already felt shaken and targeted after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, where an alleged white nationalist gunman, who killed 22 people, had published an online manifesto that echoed President Trump's rhetoric about an "invasion" of immigrants. The mass arrests came as President Trump was in El Paso, supposedly there to comfort the victims who survived in the hospital. None of the eight victims in the hospital in El Paso would see him.

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The mass arrests in Mississippi also came on the first day of the school year there and left scores of children traumatized and crying for their parents. Some children walked home from school only to find their doors locked and their family members missing. This is 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio speaking with Mississippi CBS affiliate WJTV.

MAGDALENA GOMEZ GREGORIO: Government, please show some heart. Let my parent be free and with everybody else. Please, don't leave the childs with cryness and everything. ... I need my dad and mommy. My dad didn't do nothing. He's not a criminal.

AMY GOODMAN: It is not clear how many children have now been reunited with their parents, but their families now have no income.

Wednesday's raids targeted chicken processing plants operated by Koch Foods, one of the largest poultry producers in the United States. Last year, Koch Foods paid out three-and-three-quarter million dollars to settle an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission class-action suit charging the company with sexual harassment, national origin and race discrimination, and retaliation against Latino workers at one of its Mississippi plants that were raided.

Labor activists say it's the latest raid to target factories where immigrant workers have organized unions, fought back against discrimination or challenged unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Meanwhile, black farmers say they have also encountered bias from Koch Foods. In complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2010 and 2015, they say Koch Foods discriminated against them and used its market control to drive them out of business. The company denied any wrongdoing.

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For more, we go to Jackson, Mississippi, where we're joined by two guests. Chokwe Antar Lumumba is the mayor of Jackson, longtime activist. Also with us, Patricia Ice, legal projects director at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! L. Patricia Ice, let's begin with you. Can you explain what took place? Again, this is Wednesday, when the national cameras were focused on President Trump going to Dayton, Ohio, and to El Paso. In El Paso, it was the largest Latino massacre in this country's history. And now, on this day, the first day of school in Mississippi, ICE raided all of these factories and arrested close to 700 people. Explain how this went down, as you understand it.

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