- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Immigrant-rights groups accused ICE agents of “acts of terror” after the agency raided seven Mississippi businesses Wednesday morning, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants who’d been working there.

The operation was the largest single-state arrest of illegal immigrants in history, with more than 680 persons apprehended, according to Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Hurst Jr. announced the action in a press conference in Mississippi and defended the arrests as the first step toward restoring “law and order” in immigration.

“We are first and foremost a nation of laws,” he said. “Without law, there is no order. Without the enforcement of law, there is no justice.”

The arrests were part of a year-long investigation, but the timing of the move — days after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, by a man police say was motivated by anti-Hispanic sentiments — left immigrant-rights activists outraged.

“We’re calling these ICE raids for what they are - an act of terror,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, deputy executive director at United We Dream, a leading activist group. “The effect of ripping children from their parents at the border or stealing parents away from their children in Mississippi is the same.”

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles demanded Democrats in Congress strip funding from ICE and the Border Patrol in order to curtail enforcement.

“Rounding up people at work or home is an undignified way of treating our neighbors and we condemn it,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of CHIRLA. “On a day when we seek unifying words and acts to heal the nation’s broken heart, President Trump allows so many families and communities to be torn apart.”

ICE said it had a 24-hour hotline available for people to call to find out if their family members were nabbed in the operation and to find out about potential deportation.

Acting ICE Director Matt Albence said some of those arrested may be prosecuted criminally, while others are likely to end up with speedy deportations if they’ve previously been ordered removed from the country.

He was asked about the possibility of illegal immigrant parents leaving children behind. He said the situation with those arrested is no different than any state or local police action, where an adult with a family can be arrested and jailed.

But he said ICE does work with local officials to try to prepare for children who may end up in that situation.

Some migrants have already been released back into the community for humanitarian reasons — usually on some form of supervision such as an ankle monitoring device.

Mr. Hurst said the timing of Wednesday’s operation had nothing to do with external events. He said they had finally amassed enough evidence to get a federal judge to issue warrants to pursue the case.

“Now, because we have an HSI and ICE agents that are raring to do this, as well as federal prosecutors who are happy to prosecute these cases,” the prosecutor said.

He said about 650 ICE agents were part of the operation, fanning out across the states.

The Associated Press reported from one Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, Mississippi, where it said buses were lined up to cart migrants away to a military base to be processed.

“A tearful 13-year-old boy whose parents are from Guatemala waved goodbye to his mother, a Koch worker, as he stood beside his father. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot,” the AP reported.

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