JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - 271 of those detained in immigration raids around the state have been sent home according to a spokesman from Homeland Security Investigation.
Jere Miles Special Agent in Charge for ICE New Orleans (includes Mississippi) says that 387 people remain in custody. 43 were released at the site.
18 juveniles were picked up in raids and released, one as young as 14.
Those released were taken back to their place of work, where they were picked up.
ICE raids took place Wednesday morning at seven locations across Mississippi and 680 people were detained in the largest single-state worksite enforcement operation in the nation’s history.
U.S. Attorney Michael Hurst would not say whether the employers cooperated or would be charged.
“Every law enforcement agency in the nation arrests persons who may be parents when those persons commit arrestable offenses,” said Bryan Cox in an email. “This agency took extensive steps in planning for this operation to take special care of situations involving adults who may have childcare situations or children at school at the time of their arrest.”
Cox said numbers are not yet available and won’t be until later today, but more than 300 have been arrested. Approximately 270 of those were released from the hangar, 30 were released from the plants themselves and were not transported because of what ICE calls “humanitarian factors.”
All the alleged undocumented immigrants have left the hangar at the Air National Guard, where they were being processed, Cox said, and those who have not been released are in custody to be taken to an ICE detention facility.
Those who have been released were placed into proceedings before the federal immigration courts and will have their day in court, Cox said.
“All of the arrestees were advised when they arrived at the processing center to let ICE officers know if they had any children who were at school or childcare and needed to be picked up,” he said. “In order to make it possible for arrestees to contact other family members and address childcare issues, HSI procured cell phones that are available at the processing site for use by arrestees to make arrangements for the care of their children or other dependents.”
Attorneys like Nathan Elmore and Jeremy Litton are, in many cases, the last hope for some of those detained in yesterday’s immigration raids.
“We have families now that are coming to us where loved ones are missing," said Litton. "They’ve maybe gotten a phone call last night or early this morning, their children are scared to go to school, and they’re coming to us for answers. Answers are limited right now.”
During processing each person was asked if they have any dependents that need to be cared for, Cox said. The ones with child care issues who are not arrested on criminal charges or are not subject to mandatory detention, were processed and returned to where they were arrested so that they can go home to their families.
The others can only be in one of a few places.
“A lot of these people are incarcerated, they may be down in Natchez, they may be in one of the immigration jails in Louisiana,” said Elmore. “So to give their family peace of mind, the first thing we need to do is find out where they are.”
As part of HSI procedures, if HSI encountered two alien parents with minor children at home, HSI released one of the parents on humanitarian grounds and returned that individual to the place from which they were arrested. HSI similarly released any single alien parent with minor children a home on humanitarian grounds and physically returned that person to the place where he or she was originally detained.
Based on these procedures, it is believed that all children were with at least one of their parents as of last night.
The Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services was not and has not yet been notified about these ICE raids.
Lea Anne Brandon with MDCPS said they have independently mobilized resources in this case.
Authorities said two HSI employees were designated to contact schools in the area of the businesses being searched to notify them of the operation. Those agents were to provide contact information in the event that the schools became aware of any children whose parents did not pick them up.
“Recently people have come in and said, ‘OK, I’m scared now. Is there any way I can fix my status?’” Litton said.
And what a lot of people don’t know is that for some, there IS a way to fix their status.
“If you’ve been in the country 10 years and you’ve got good morals and you’ve got people who depend on you that would be in deep hardship were you to get deported from the country, then you might have a legal remedy to remain in the United States,” Elmore said. “The thing is it you cannot actively affirmatively apply for that relief, you can only do it once you’ve been taken into custody.”