LatinaLista — News of yesterday’s raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, at six plants owned by the meat processing company Swift & Company, greeted most of us early this morning.
With frontpage headlines or lead stories broadcasting the surprise round-up of what is now calculated to be 1,282 arrests from Cactus, Texas to Marshalltown, Iowa, the news saddened most of us and undoubtedly delighted others who equate all undocumented immigrants with deathrow-dangerous criminals.
Woman cries for her husband who was picked up during the ICE raid in Cactus, Texas.
(Source: The Dallas Morning News)
But there’s a sizeable group who know that the men and women picked up in yesterday’s raids are not the “blood-thirsty illegals” some want the country to believe.
And that is their children.
It is reported that 400 children have been taken in by friends and extended family members in the Cactus, Texas area alone because their parents were caught in the raid.
Needless to say, yesterday’s government action scared the children, of all ages.
I know this because the first news of yesterday’s raids didn’t reach me through regular “news channels” but through an e-mail of a student whose life was touched in some way by yesterday’s events.
I just have a question. The town I live in just had a raid today and when we were going home from school on the bus, they took us straight to an elementary school in the town and kept us there until a parent or legal guardian went to sign us out. I just want to know if they can do that. Can they take students from one school to another and keep us there until our parents go and sign us out? I don’t think they can but I just wanted to ask someone that knew. I have been trying to find information on the people’s rights during an immigration raid but I can’t seem to find anything useful. Please contact me as soon as possible. Thank you so much for your time.
I wish I knew more but I was able to dig up a few answers â€” straight from the sources themselves.
In speaking with Leticia Zamarripa, the ICE Public Affairs Officer handling questions for the Cactus, Texas raid, Leticia told Latina Lista that ICE had nothing to do with ordering the children bussed to the elementary school. She said that was on the orders of the school superintendent.
Tracking down Dumas School Superintendent Larry Appel, he confirmed that he and his staff decided it was in the best interest of the children to take them all to one centralized location.
“Six busloads of junior high and high school students were transported to an elementary school to wait for a parent or their guardian or someone on their pickup list to come and sign them out. This was done to make sure every child had a home to go to,” Appel said.
Superintendent Appel also disclosed that, as we can imagine, the school district’s absentee rate was double today than what it is normally. From Pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, the percentage was 7.3% or about 286 children out.
Certainly these children, and their remaining family members, were afraid they would be taken away if they went outside today.
Is that the kind of fear children, not to mention whole communities, should be scarred with?
In Grand Island, Nebraska at another Swift plant raid, it’s reported that the local police chief, Steve Lamken, refused to allow his officers to take part in the raids.
“When this is all over, we’re still here taking care of our community and if I have a significant part of my population that’s fearful and won’t call us then that’s not good for our community,” Lamken said.
The government’s justification for its multi-state sweep of the plants is information it received that an identity theft scheme was being perpetuated.
According to ICE Public Affairs Officer Leticia Zamarripa,
This investigation began in February 2006 as a result of information developed during ICE Criminal Alien Program (CAP) activities in which ICE agents process aliens incarcerated in state or local jails for administrative removal following the completion of their sentences.
During CAP interviews, agents identified aliens who had worked at Swift and who admitted that they had assumed identities in order to circumvent employment eligibility screening. In addition, ICE received referrals from outside police agencies and several calls to its 1-866-DHS-2ICE hotline from anonymous individuals who reported illegal aliens working at Swift.
In fact, in November, The Dallas Morning News ran a three-part series on the Cactus, TX plant of Swift outlining the identity theft scheme, use of immigrant labor as well as the dangerous conditions of the work itself.
Yet, as bad as those conditions are, it’s safe to say that they are not as frightening as to the uncertain future felt by those family members left behind.
Undoubtedly some, if not most, of the children are US citizens â€” and have every right to continue their lives here in this country.
With Christmas only a little over a week away, it’s a sure bet many children in towns like Cactus, Grand Island and Marshalltown, as well as the others, are praying for their own Christmas Star to lead their parents back to them.
But what it’s really going to take is a whole Congress of Wise Men and Women to deal with the undocumented in a fair way so that families aren’t continually being torn apart, children are not traumatized, fake documents aren’t common practice, identities are not being stolen and the groundwork isn’t being laid for a generation learning to resent and fear law enforcement.
This situation needs a real Savior.