50.6 F

Community Fuels Donations to Immigrant Families Affected by ICE Raids

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

Members of the community were outraged last week when they discovered several immigrant children in Mississippi would arrive home from school to no parents.

Therefore, several banded together Tuesday evening to help provide essentials and non-perishable items to families affected by the ICE raids last week at seven different food plants in Central Mississippi.

Donations were collected by community members Patricia Miller and Gail Stratton Tuesday evening in the Kroger parking lot. Photo courtesy of Gail Stratton.

Of the raids conducted in Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie and Sebastapol, approximately 680 immigrants were arrested. The Clarion Ledger reported that ICE released 300 of the 680 detainees, but many are awaiting court appearances.

According to The Clarion-Ledger, Scott County School District’s Superintendent Tony McGee said last week that he knew of at least six families in his school system who were affected by the raids and expects those numbers to rise.

One school district instructed its bus drivers to make visual contact with a parent or guardian while dropping students off at their homes after the raids. The students whose parents had been detained by ICE were taken back to their respected schools if no guardians were there, according to reports.

Nearly 200 students did not show up to school within the following days due to the raids, according to a report by BuzzFeedNews.

Organizing for a Cause

Oxford residents Patricia Miller and Gail Stratton are two of the leading forces behind one of the many donation drives in the community. Miller said Friday night she and Stratton were watching the news coverage of the raids that took place at several food plants in Central Mississippi. They both had uneasy feelings. 

“There is nothing right about this,” Miller said. “There is just nothing right about separating children from their parents.”

Not being able to watch the news of the raids any longer, they both decided to take action. Miller said she knew that Dodo Pizza in Oxford had already taken a load of donations to Forest, Mississippi. Although she nor Stratton had a van, the two decided to rent one and filled it with donations and take to Forest on the heels of Dodo. 

Word of the donation drive spread like wildfire, according to Miller and Stratton. Many other organizations began to share the announcement through social media, such as the Lafayette County Democrat Party, the Wise Women Oxford lunch group, and the Jewish Federation of Oxford.

“It was like a boulder rolling down a hill,” Miller said. “It just took momentum so fast.”

Edy Dingus, executive director of the Magnolia Montessori School (MMS), also helped facilitate a donation drive. She said the school’s vision is that each member of the school’s community possesses a sense of duty towards stewardship and ethical responsibility in regards to the raids.

Dingus said the school collected donations for the children, families, and individuals negatively impacted by last week’s immigration raids in Central Mississippi because it is imperative that MMS supports all Mississippians.

“Our organization seeks to work with other organizations to have a positive impact on our local and greater communities,” she said.

As Miller and Stratton drove to Kroger Tuesday evening, Miller said many community members had already gathered in anticipation to donate.

“People just kept on coming,” Stratton said.

Community members helped load multiple vehicles which were driven to Forest, Mississippi the following day. Photo courtesy of Gail Stratton.

Miller and Stratton received 110 donations from community members. Not only did the community donate a plethora of goods to the drive, but Miller said many stayed to help load the vehicles on one of the hottest days of the year.

After the first van was packed full of goods, the group began to load Miller’s vehicle as well. As they continued to stuff vehicles with necessities, they said, donations continued to pour in. 

Miller and Stratton made connections through Cam Calisch, president of UM Solidarity, who delegated the communication with a religious organization in Forest. When they made their way there Wednesday morning, a sign hung on the door barring media from entering in order to protect the identity of those receiving donations.

Although many did not speak English, Miller said the energy radiated a sense of “a time of being together.”

Miller and Stratton began to sort all the different donations from toiletries and non-perishable food items. As the two began to leave, they were stopped by one of the organizers asking them to stay for lunch.

“They were so hospitable,” Miller said.

“They continued to say how there is so much good in the world, so much love in the world,” Stratton said.

Community Bands Together

Miller said she and Stratton were utterly surprised by the outpouring of donations and support. They even received cash donations all the way from Washington, D.C. to help with their efforts, they said. 

“People want to help,” Miller said. “This is the Mississippi I know of  – compassionate, giving people.”

Miller, Calisch and another member of the community en route to Forest, Mississippi. Photo courtesy of Gail Stratton.

Stratton said through this experience she has seen the people who have “goodness in their hearts.”

“Words cannot describe how grateful we are for those who came out and helped with this cause,” she said.

Taking Action Statewide

UM Solidarity—a student organization that supports educational and diverse spaces on campus—helped facilitate the donations with the drop-off center in Forest.

Calisch told Hottytoddy.com she has been working closely with the organization Southerners on the Groud, among others, to help better understand the needs of the communities that were affected during last weeks raids.

Calisch was one of several members of the community who helped organize the “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps”—a nationwide effort to call attention to and end the inhumane conditions happening inside immigration concentration camps across the country—last month.

Members of the LOU community marched last month in protest of the detention centers across the country. Photo by Talbert Toole.

She said the fight against these specific immigration policies and actions is not over until ICE is abolished and the country has a just immigration system. Calisch said these raids are a “total scare tactic.”

“I’m Jewish and I grew up being terrified of being in the situation that many people and families now find themselves in,” she said.

Calisch said one of the main issues is it is extremely difficult for an immigrant to obtain citizenship.

“But it goes deeper than that,” she said. “Multi-national corporations—many that are tied to the United States—exploit Latinx labor all over the world and don’t pay them a living wage.”

None of the plant managers who hired and employed the detained immigrants have been charged in connection with the raids, according to an article by the Times.

Stratton said many candidates for Mississippi governor have spoken out and said the state is safer because of the raids.

“Mississippi is a state of laws. However, those same laws are not being applied to those employers,” she said. “No one is being held accountable except these people who are the most vulnerable.”

For more information about helping those negatively impacted by the raids, contact Edy Dingus at ed@magnoliamontessorischool.com.

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