ICE raids in Mississippi prompt Chicago-area groups to take action

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago-area groups are taking action after hundreds of Mississippi food plant workers were arrested by federal immigration officials in the largest raids in at least a decade.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took about 680 people into custody Wednesday following workplace raids at chicken processing plants across Mississippi.

RELATED: US immigration agents arrest 680 at Mississippi plants, marking largest raids in at least 10 years
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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say raids at seven food processing plants in Mississippi resulted in 680 arrests.



Some of those arrested have since been released. But initially, children were separated from their parents, including 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio.

"My dad didn't do nothing, he is not a criminal," Magdalena said about her father being arrested by ICE agents.

Up to seven poultry plants owned by several different companies were targeted. Park Ridge-based Koch Foods was one of them.

Koch Foods, which operates plants in Mississippi, didn't respond to ABC 7's request for comment Thursday.

Chicago immigration organizations have been on high alert since President Donald Trump's administration threatened massive raids a few weeks ago. But the size of the Mississippi operation came as a surprise to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

"Of course, we are really concerned that this is just the shot across the bow, that more such large-scale operations will happen in the future," said Fred Tsao, the group's senior policy counsel.



The coalition and other immigrant groups, including Pilsen's Resurrection Project, have been spending the past few months making sure undocumented Chicago-area residents know their rights.

"People should know that their rights are to remain silent, to seek legal counsel and to have their case heard before an immigration judge," said Katherine Greenslade, an immigration attorney for the Resurrection Project.

The Resurrection Project also advises people to be proactive by preparing guardianship for their children.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker shared information on Twitter Thursday about what undocumented residents should do if ICE agents show up at their homes.



While some of the children affected by the Mississippi raids have been reunited with their families, Chicago's Catholic Extension is setting up a fund to help the kids that have not.

"Just think of what it would be like in your own family, if all of a sudden, your kids came home and you weren't there, said Father Jack Wall of Catholic Extension. "It's such a traumatic experience."

Food, farm and labor organizations are also uniting to set up a bail fund for the workers arrested by ICE agents.

Some immigration groups believe the raids are related to President Trump's reelection campaign, while Homeland Security officials said they're about enforcing the rule of law.

The raids have been planned for about a year.
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