JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s been exactly three months since the ICE raids at seven chicken processing plants in Mississippi and families say they’re still feeling the effects.
Their stories were relayed to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security by legal and community advocates who argued that the raids were inhumane and unnecessary.
“One individual said we were treated like animals,"explained Lorena Quiroz, Lead Organizer for Working Together Mississippi and Mississippi Immigrant Coalition. "We were told we weren’t coming home. Why do they hate us so much?”
The second panel included a Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge and local leaders from two impacted communities who say they’ve not had criminal histories with those members the Hispanic community who were detained in the raids. But the agent said this.
“You’re saying they haven’t committed a crime, they’re law abiding citizens," said Jere Miles, Special Agent in Charge, New Orleans Field Office, Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "They stole the ID of 400 U.S. citizens. 400 U.S. citizens. Where’s their voice?”
Immigration rights advocates say that many of the workers speak indigenous languages and may have had additional language barriers when communicating with employers. Another concern raised was this.
“It seems that the focus is on the employees and the immigrants," explained Congressman Al Green (D) of Texas."We have to show that if you really want to deter, arrest some of the employers. Let the employers know there is a price to pay for violating the law.”
U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst says that part of the investigation is pending.
“What I can tell you is the history of this office shows we not only investigate employers, owners, companies who violate federal criminal law, specifically immigration laws, we actually prosecute them here and will continue to do so,” noted Hurst.
Committee Chairman Congressman Bennie Thompson made this note about one of the things he hopes to see come of the hearing. The committee had several questions about whether proper notice was given to local law enforcement, officials and school districts.
“Help craft legislation forward to make sure that some of the inconsistencies that we heard don’t happen again, for instance there is no written policy for notification," said Thompson. "That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.”