Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance Calls for Support

In light of lack of critical connection to immigrant communities displayed by our ‘leaders,’ it’s important that we do what we can to help out. The following was put out by MIRA! in Mississippi–and organization that was working well before the recent raids to minimize the reach of the raid in Mississippi. See after the cut for ways you can help out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

After answering the phone, Bill Chandler, director of MIRA! (the
Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, based in Jackson), blurted out,
“The ICE raid is in progress right now at Howard Industries, in
Laurel, Mississippi.” Laurel is a small town of about 18,000 people;
Howard Industries employs about 800 workers.


Earlier this morning, Department of Homeland Security agents began
descending on different work sites in Mississippi to unleash another
brutal immigration raid. According to Mr. Chandler, DHS began renting
hotel space over the past few days, indicating the presence of
hundreds of Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
agents.

MIRA also reports ICE placed the Southern Hens poultry plant under
lockdown, which employs nearly 2,000 people in Mossell, Mississippi.
Mossell is between Hattiesburg and Laurel on I-59.

And on Sunday night ICE set up roadblocks near the Wal-Mart in
Hattiesburg, an illegal detentive stop to check for immigration status
of passersby’s.

ICE agents have already gone into the Howard Industries plant in
Laurel, where some 800 workers manufacture ballast for office lights,
neon tubes and transformers. Approximately half the workers there are
Latinos. Howard Industries has three plants; one in Laurel, Magee and
Ellisville. ICE also raided Howard corporate offices in Ellisville.

ICE has arrested so many workers at the Laurel Howard plant that
operations have been shut down. MIRA has already received reports of
scores of children being left behind without their parents who ICE
arrested at the Howard Industries plant.

ICE Raid, SB 2988 and MS’s Inglorious Present

The brutal ICE raid now taking place in Laurel and other parts harkens
back to Mississippi’s shameful past of Jim Crow segregation, police
brutality and violence. The current state laws, the national
anti-immigrant climate and hangovers from Mississippi’s inglorious
past made Jones County ripe for ICE to conduct their usual raids that
trample on constitutional rights and communities.

Laurel has the distinction of being located in Jones County,
headquarters for two notorious racist and anti-immigrant groups, the
KKK and MFIRE, the Mississippi branch of FAIR, the national
anti-immigrant group.

Earlier this year the Mississippi legislature passed and the Governor
signed into law Senate bill 2988, the most draconian employer
sanctions law passed to date in the U.S. that further criminalizes
workers, especially immigrants, and opens the door for employers to
discriminate against Latinos and others.

SB 2988 makes it a felony to work without authorization in
Mississippi. SB 2988 imposes a one to five year prison sentence and
hefty fines of $1,000 to $10,000. No one has yet been charged under SB
2988.

Today’s ICE raid however opens the door to using both federal and
state laws, including SB 2988, in a new way. This has everyone on
edge. Mr. Chandler added, “Now we are all waiting to see what will
happen to people being arrested at Howard Industries.”

Support Needed to Counter ICE Raid Impacts

Mr. Chandler said, “We had been expecting the raids, either on the
coast or in Hattiesburg. We were getting information that ICE was in
hotels in the coast and other preparations were going on in
Hattiesburg.”

MIRA began holding community meetings on the Mississippi coast and
Hattiesburg areas all last week, getting the word out for the last ten
days that an ICE raid was underway. MIRA advised workers of their
Constitutional rights, to remain silent if arrested, and to prepare
for the crackdown.

Now MIRA is seeking the help of lawyers. There is deep worry among the
community about the raids and their aftermath. MIRA has prepared
social services and legal help for all persons, including families and
others, affected by the ICE raid.

Bill closed by saying, “Most of what we are getting today is that ICE
is focusing on Jones County; but haven’t had calls from all areas. We
have had calls from chicken plants in and around Laurel. We had
expected the raids to occur at chicken plants; it was a surprise, it’s
a different industry. Howard Industries gets state and federal funding
to operate.”

Support MIRA: Stop the ICE Raids

MIRA is now in meeting with families affected by the raid to assess
what their needs are and also working with lawyers to deal with
arraignments of workers swept up in the raid. MIRA needs attorneys to
volunteer their services and help the detained workers.

Please visit the MIRA website to make an on-line donation at: www.yourmira.org

Send in a check or money order, payable to “MIRA,” write in the memo
“Relief for families affected by raids” and mail to:

MIRA!
PO 1104
Jackson, MS 39215

To support MIRA’s legal project, call (601) 354-9355
For media inquiries, (601) 968-5182.

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