By now, you've probably heard about the massive, coordinated ICE raids in Mississippi. About 680 people were arrested at seven agricultural processing plants. According to ICE's acting director, Matthew Albence, some of those arrested will be prosecuted for crimes, others will be swiftly deported, and some will be released pending immigration court hearings. Mr. Albence states, "The arrests today were the result of a year-long criminal investigation, and the arrests and warrants executed today were just another step in that investigation." How many of those arrested were actually criminals, and how many were "collaterals" (people who were not targets of the raids, but were encountered and arrested due to their unlawful immigration status), we do not know.

The raids are supposedly also targeting the companies that hired these "illegals." The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, who was involved in the ICE operation, warned: "To those who use illegal aliens for a competitive advantage or to make a quick buck, we have something to say to you: If we find you have violated federal criminal law, we are coming for you.”

As we know from prior large-scale raids, the implications of arresting so many people are deep and long-lasting. Probably the most famous example is the 2008 raid at a Kosher food processing plant in Postville, Iowa. Almost 400 people--mostly indigenous Mayans from Guatemala--were detained. Many were charged with crimes such as using a false Social Security card. They were given a choice: Plead guilty and accept deportation, or go to trial. Going to trial was risky, and would result in many months of detention, even for those who were ultimately acquitted (since unlawful immigrants can be held in detention pending a criminal case). The result: Most people chose to plead guilty and accept deportation. A number of people in management were also charged with crimes. Only one--the owner of the plant Sholom Rubashkin--served any significant jail time, and that was for financial fraud (he had also faced charges for immigration-related crimes, but those were dropped). After eight years in jail, Mr. Rubashkin's sentence was commuted by President Trump, purportedly after the intervention of Trump sycophant Alan Dershowitz.

The effect of the raid on the town of Postville and the wider community was profound: Children stopped going to school, families were separated, several hundred people were tried, convicted, and deported with little due process of law, the food processing plant--the town's largest employer--closed for weeks and eventually declared bankruptcy, and a study of the long-term health effects of the raid showed that "Babies born to Latina mothers after the raid were 24 percent more likely to be underweight than infants born the year before," presumably due to the stress and fear the raid engendered. Ten years later, the town had mostly rebounded, but memories of the raid--and the trauma--live on.

I imagine that noncitizens in Mississippi and across the nation will experience similar impacts as a result of the recent ICE raids. The psychological harm is compounded by the Trump Administration's vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric, as well as the mass shootings in Pittsburgh and El Paso, which were seemingly perpetrated by men opposed to the foreign "invasion" of our country.

What will happen to the men, women, and children affected by the recent raids is still not known. Some of those detained likely have defenses to deportation, such as asylum or Cancellation of Removal (assuming their due process rights are not violated and they have an opportunity to present their defenses). Several of the people arrested during the Postville raid cooperated with the authorities in the criminal investigation and obtained U visas. Perhaps some of those affected by the raids in Mississippi will be eligible for such visas as well.

Family members of those detained--especially children--will also face severe challenges. After the Iowa raid, many children went into hiding or were traumatized by the sudden absence of their parents and the fear of their own pending arrest. Churches and non-profits stepped up in Iowa, and I imagine we will see similar efforts here. Whether ICE has made arrangements for detainees' children, and whether they will release non-criminal parents in their custody, is still unclear (ICE has indicated that such people would be released after an initial screening).

Part of the problem in this regard is trust. It is impossible to trust what ICE says. For example, one of the detainees in the recent raids has a 12-year-old daughter named Angie. The child was brought to the scene by a family friend in order to say goodbye to her mother. The following exchange with an ICE agent ensued--

“Here’s the deal, all right,” an agent says to an English-speaking woman accompanying Angie. “She [Angie's mother] just went. Her mom got on the bus. We took her mom’s documents, all right. She’s going to be processed, because she doesn’t have papers to be here legally.”

But “because she’s the only caretaker of the child,” the agent continues, “she’ll be released this afternoon. So with [Angie] being a U.S. citizen and being 12 years old … she’s going to be issued a notice to appear, she’ll have to see an immigration judge, she’ll be released this afternoon."

“Today?” a woman asks.

“Yes, yes,” the officer responds. “But I’m going to tell you something, she’s not going to be deported because she has a United States citizen child.”

As of Wednesday night, the mother had not been released.

This is the type of behavior we see all the time from ICE agents. They give assurances to defuse the situation or end a conversation, but those assurances are false. They also pass the buck--in this case, it is not the ICE agent's problem, the mother will have to see an Immigration Judge. I get it--law enforcement officers want to de-escalate tense encounters. But the frequent lying makes it impossible to trust anything that ICE agents may say.

Finally, I do understand that ICE agents have a job to do, and that people who are here unlawfully can be deported. That is the law. But this raid--with its helicopters and military-style trappings--seems designed for propaganda purposes. In the context of the times, I fear that the effect on our country's noncitizen and minority community members will be traumatizing and frightening. I also can't help but feel that that is exactly what ICE wants.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: