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ICYMI: USA Today: “’I thought she was going to die’: Parents separated from children after Mississippi ICE raids”

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“Every morning, 9-month-old Elizabeth wakes up and reaches across the bed to breastfeed, but her mother isn’t there.”

USA Today’s Alan Gomez, Alissa Zhu, Giacomo Bologna and Rebecca Morin detail the enduring and heartbreaking consequences of the Mississippi family separation immigration raid earlier this month. 

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communications for America’s Voice, “In our name and with our tax dollars, Trump and Stephen Miller are destroying communities and wrecking families. A baby, still breastfeeding, left hungry, as their mother is detained. Three other boys left without their mom. All of this devastation is being inflicted because Trump thinks it is good for his reelection campaign. And now, Miller and Trump have the gall to propose indefinite definition for mothers, fathers, and children with reduced transparency and oversight. This is reckless and dangerous and the pain is being felt across America.” 

The piece is excerpted below and available in full here.

CARTHAGE, MISS. — Every morning, 9-month-old Elizabeth wakes up and reaches across the bed to breastfeed, but her mother isn’t there. Her father, Romeo Ramirez, has tried his best to mimic the process, cradling his wide-eyed girl while slipping her a bottle of formula. 

For the first three days, Elizabeth refused, wailing each time as she pushed him away. On the fourth day, when hunger overwhelmed her, she finally accepted the bottle. 

“I didn’t know what to do,” Ramirez said. “She kept crying and crying. She was so hungry but she wouldn’t take the bottle. I thought she was going to die.”

Her mother, Norma Cardona Ramirez, was among the 680 people arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Aug. 7 during raids at food processing plants in central Mississippi. She and other parents identified by the USA TODAY NETWORK remain in custody more than two weeks later, despite claims from federal officials that the agency released more than 300 people on humanitarian grounds, including breastfeeding mothers and single parents with children at home.

…The ongoing detentions raise serious questions about the way ICE agents screened the people they arrested, including how many parents with tender-age children remain in custody. It also poses broader questions about the Trump administration’s treatment of families caught up in the president’s escalating efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. 

…Community and business leaders in the affected Mississippi towns — which range from 300 to 12,000 in population — said the ICE raids have turned the communities upside-down and will impact the communities for years. Store owners are worried about loss of business, bankers about mortgages and pastors about loss of large amounts of their parishioners. Chicken plants, an economic anchor for some of these small communities, have been shut down or at reduced capacity and had been struggling to find enough workers before the raids.

…The USA TODAY Network has also identified two cases of single mothers who are still in ICE custody.

That appears to contradict an earlier statement from Mississippi Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst’s office, which claimed any single parent with minor children at home were released within 27 hours of their arrest. The day after the raids, Hurst’s office announced about 300 suspected undocumented immigrants were released on “humanitarian grounds.”

If immigration officials encountered two alleged undocumented immigrants with minor children at home, they released one of the parents and returned the individual to the place from which they were arrested, said a news release from Hurst’s office. They did the same thing for single parents with minor children at home, the release said.

At least one woman says that’s a lie.

…In one case, a man is taking care of three young boys whose mother was rounded up in the raids and remains locked up in a federal detention center. The woman had been renting a room in the man’s house, the family of four crammed into one bedroom where they share two beds and one cabinet.

The identities and locations of the man, the woman and her children are being withheld because the family is worried that ICE would seek to detain the woman longer, or state officials would take the children. The USA TODAY NETWORK has verified the story from the man caring for the children, a priest assisting the family and advocates working on behalf of the woman in detention.

The man has taken time off from work and taken over full-time caretaking duties. He makes the boys breakfast each morning, ensures the older boys get on the school bus and drives the youngest to school. When they get home, the man makes them dinner, washes their clothes and watches over them. Once a day, when the mother calls from her detention center, he hands the phone over to the boys and tries his best to keep their spirits up.

“I’m doing this because I don’t want these boys to end up with the state,” Department of Child Protection Services, the man said while showing a reporter around his home. “They would be split up. I want to keep them together so they’re here and waiting when their mother gets out.”