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On August 8, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a massive workplace raid across Minnesota and Nebraska and arrested 133 immigrant workers. ICE only had warrants for 17 immigrants; the rest were “collateral” arrests from the factories, farms, and restaurants ICE targeted.
This raid is only the latest in a series of large and indiscriminate raids that ICE has conducted under the Trump Administration. So far in fiscal year 2018, there have been five times as many arrests of immigrants at their workplace than in all of FY 2017. And the number of undocumented immigrants arrested without a criminal record under the Trump Administration has tripled.
ICE’s main focus in the raid was O’Neill, Nebraska, a town of about 3,700, and some 80 families living there were directly impacted by the raid . In O’Neill, ICE raided a grocery store, a restaurant, and a hydroponic tomato and potato facility run by O’Neill Ventures. Armed ICE agents, with the help of Nebraska state troopers, surrounded and blocked the entrance to the tomato facility. O’Neill Ventures employed about 80 workers but ICE arrested about 60 of them. That is “60 less paychecks that will be spent in O’Neill,” said one local business owner, who worried about the economic harm the raid could have on the small town.
More devastatingly, ICE did not plan for the care of the children whose parents they detained. That has also been their pattern with similar raids, including workplace raids in Tennessee, Iowa, and Ohio earlier this year. O’Neill teachers and administrators stepped up to care for about a dozen children who were left without parents, opening up the school that was closed for the summer to provide support and counselling to the children. Amy Shane, the superintendent of O’Neill Public Schools, estimated that between 50 to 100 kids in her district were separated from an immediate family member because of the raid. Almost all of the children with detained parents who fled to the school were eventually reunited with a least one relative for care. But a 4-month-old who was still breast feeding and her 7-year-old sister had to be cared for by the assistant principal until their father was released late that night.
On the evening of the raid, about 80 community members staged a protest at the city court house in opposition to the raid and in support of their immigrant neighbors. They carried signs that read “separating families is not Nebraska Nice” and “America is for Everyone.”
Many in O’Neill showed their willingness to support their neighbors and their families from indiscriminate raids, showing the care that small-town communities and their immigrant neighbors have for each other. But unfortunately, these raids are only one front on the Trump Administration’s assault on immigrant families. The Administration has separated families at the border, by ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of families, by ending help for children who are U.S. citizens but whose parents happens to be immigrants, and by attempting to end DACA for Dreamers.
View photos of Nebraskans protesting this month’s raid on immigrant families:
— Fred Knapp (@fredmknapp) August 8, 2018
I am disheartened. Nebraska’s history is grounded in the immigrant story. We are talking about families who are pursing the American Dream, who bleed Nebraska Cornhusker red, and who are supporting our economy. I know we are better than this. https://t.co/ibG7Zzkleg
— Senator Tony Vargas (@TonyVargas) August 8, 2018
Police and ICE agents entered a Mexican grocery store and locked the front doors. A state police officer blocking the back entrance to a restaurant. Tomato pickers and farmers are being put into DHS vans. This is the scenes in the #Nebraska ICE raids. https://t.co/CWbOXIMd6w
— Movimiento Cosecha (@CosechaMovement) August 8, 2018
Folks seem surprised to see those in a rural Nebraska town out demonstrating against an ICE raid in their community. But this is neighbor standing up for neighbor, having their back in a time of need. This embodies the small town values these places cherish. #weareoneill https://t.co/jKgbf5qngs
— Kevin Forch (@kevinforch) August 9, 2018