More ICE raids have people terrified after Asian restaurants are targeted in Mississippi.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained 55 people Wednesday on “immigration-related charges” as they executed criminal search warrants at a string of Asian restaurants in central Mississippi.
The first call came Wednesday morning: Federal agents were raiding a Chinese buffet in the city of Pearl. Before long, word spread across Mississippi immigrant communities that agents were targeting a Hibachi grill in nearby Flowood and a sushi restaurant nearly 100 miles away in Meridian, reported The LA Times.
“We told people we don’t know what’s going on,” said Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance in Jackson. “The best thing to do is to go home.”
As news of the raids spread through the communities and communication networks set up to help protect immigrants, restaurant owners closed their doors and construction workers left the job sites.
“Right now, the paranoia and sense of fear is overwhelming,” said Ramiro Orozco, an immigration attorney based in Jackson. “All the raids and the rhetoric coming from the new administration have created so much anxiety. We’re getting to the point that people are pulling their children out of school, they’re not going to work.”
According to ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd, this week’s raids at eight restaurants were the result of a multi-year criminal investigation by ICE and DHS, but Byrd refused to provide any details on the warrants, citing an ongoing investigation.
The Post said any potential charges against the restaurant owners would be brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson, Byrd said. A spokesman for that office declined to comment.
Even if the detentions were the result of an investigation that predated the Trump administration, immigrant advocates questioned the timing and the nature of ICE’s searches, saying they had exacerbated fear across the community and raised concerns about lack of due process.
Last week, ICE agents in Mississippi detained an Argentine father and son outside their Jackson home as they left for work. Another family member, Daniela Vargas, 21, who moved to the U.S. when she was 7 and has been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, barricaded herself in a closet as agents broke into the house.
“She’s now in hiding,” Chandler said. “There’s fear all across the country, but in Mississippi, it’s more acute because of the state’s long history of racism.”
Abused women are afraid to report crimes to the police because they fear they will deported instead of helped.
Already, Orozco said, his firm had received a call from a women’s shelter about a domestic-violence victim who was too afraid to press charges because she feared she would be taken into custody for overstaying her visa.
No one really knows the president’s policy on undocumented workers, he might not even know. What is clear to most is that Trump is anti-immigrant and will go to great lengths to get rid of people.
“The lack of information coming out of federal agencies is really feeding the fear and feeling of xenophobia,” Orozco said. “Everyone, even immigration attorneys, is trying to determine what the presidential policy is going to be.”
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)