USAToday (August 26 2008) reported that when ICE and Homeland Security raided Howard Industries in Laurel, MS taking away as many as 600 employees, (other reports stated ICE arrested 350); the employees response was to clap.
This is how deep xenophobia exists in Mississippi. It is fear that the media and state government in Mississippi have propagated and nurtured. This is the state that when a murder occurred in a trailer park outside of Jackson and the investigating police discovered the neighbors were undocumented the headlines conflated the two events, making it sound like the undocumented citizens were the alleged murderers. The murder was committed by a white citizen.
What is sad and what the clapping employees do not yet realize; is because of this raid Howard Industries, if convicted of hiring undocumented workers, will not be allowed to do business in Mississippi for one year and no public contracts for three as the result of a new state law that went into effect on July 1.
Further Howard Industries is obligated to create 2000 new jobs as per a contract awarded in 2002 of over 31 Million dollars. If Howard Industries is unable to meet employment goals, it will be fined $3,000 for every job below quota.
The clapping will undoubtedly turn to tears in the weeks and months ahead if Howard Industries is unable to continue contracted work. This will mean lay offs in a region already reeling under the still yet to be declared recession. And because the media has failed to write reports that truly inform the public and not just bias them against undocumented workers, there will probably be increased anger and prejudice aimed at the wrong people in this failed system of immigration.
Right now, there are reports of as many of 175 parents under arrest, leaving their children’s fate in limbo. Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church attempted to contact the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the congregation mentioned in USAToday, to see what supports could be provided and was told that the families “are all gone” and there was nothing to be done. Our Home UU Church will continue to seek avenues of support that could be provided to the families impacted by this event.
Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) based Jackson, MS is seeking to provide legal representation for the detained employees. Jackson is about 100 miles to the northwest of Hattiesburg where the arraignments are taking place. They are in need of financial support in order to attend to these families suffering from this indignity. This includes donations for mileage and hotel costs. Please consider supporting MIRA so these individuals get the due process under the law that they are entitled to. What happened a few months ago in Postville, Iowa was that many of those arrested there were not informed sufficiently of their legal rights under the law. This resulted in many inadvertently waiving their rights and pleading guilty, not fully understanding what they were giving up. This must not happen again here in Mississippi.
And when employees clap at the enforcement of an unjust law, it is a sign that our sense of morality has deteriorated. The injustice these immigrants face; the fearful interrogations they are confronted with, no one should be clapping… we should instead be horrified and outraged that our nation is using tactics that dictatorships use to maintain totalitarian order. These tactics do not represent American values and ethics. These tactics represent something far more evil.