We Stand with Children Impacted by ICE Raids in Mississippi

This week, days after the extraordinary violence in El Paso, the administration conducted a massive “work-site enforcement” raid at food processing plants across Mississippi. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials arrested nearly 700 adults—many parents of young children who were attending the first day of the new school year.

Under its own policies, DHS should have provided notice to both schools and state child welfare agencies about the raids. This would ensure that they were not caught unaware and could take steps to minimize the trauma and harm to children. It appears that DHS failed to do this—and teachers, principals, social workers, and community members were unexpectedly faced with terrified children separated from their parents and caregivers. Learn more about the devastating impact of the raid here.

In the face of this crisis, community members—union officials, organizers, immigration lawyers, and child welfare advocates—across Mississippi responded immediately. We understand that most children were cared for by extended family members. Many parents were subsequently released by DHS to care for their children while they go through immigration court proceedings where they face removal from the United States.

If there are any children who have not yet been reunified with parents or family members, they should fall under the protection of local child welfare laws and officials, who will have an obligation to find safe placements for the children in the community. Our desperate hope is that none of the children have to enter state care or federal care. There’s just no need, when these children were growing up in loving homes where just this week parents sent them off to school with backpacks and lunchboxes, ready to start the new year.

If any children do face the possibility of prolonged separation, the Young Center will be there to help them. We are collaborating with local actors and have offered to provide technical assistance to attorneys and child welfare workers navigating the complex intersection of immigration and child welfare systems. It is unacceptable that no consideration was given to children's safety, emotional well-being, and best interests as immigration officials planned the raid that spirited their parents away.

We hope you'll join us in advocating for a more humane immigration system that treats children as children.

Maddie Witters