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It has been a little over one year since Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) swept fear across Mississippi in what was the “largest single-state” ICE raid in U.S. history.

In the summer of 2019, hundreds of undocumented workers across different food processing plants were detained by ICE officials who left behind hundreds of traumatized families and sobbing children.

This year, loved-ones of those impacted by these traumatizing events gathered across Mississippi to mourn and grieve together, including vigils held at the processing plants where these raids occurred.

Last year’s historic raid occurred mere weeks after the Trump Administration’s announced that it planned to deploy federal agents throughout the U.S. as part of its larger “anti-immigrant” agenda. Immigration advocates everywhere denounced these raids as unconstitutional and cruel, including our team who regrouped its efforts to focus on “Know Your Rights” materials, both online and in-person locally across Chicago.

Our Managing Partner, Fiona, was a leading voice in the media opposing these raids. She advised people “not to open their doors to ICE agents unless they have a warrant from a judge to enter the home.”

As has been widely reported for many years, the Trump Organization is no stranger to reaping the benefits of undocumented labor. But even as the President claims to be for “America First” or “Buy American, Hire American”, he continues to quietly reap the benefits of undocumented workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year in March, the Department of Homeland Security issued its guidance on classification of “essential workers”, specifically identifying field and farm workers. But as advocates have pointed out, the food and agricultural labor sector is disproportionately comprised of undocumented workers. According to the Department of Agriculture, nearly half of field and crop workers (more than one million) are undocumented immigrants, but private growers and laborers estimate this number to be much higher.

“It is an open secret that the vast majority of people who harvest America’s food are undocumented immigrants, mainly from Mexico, many of them decades-long residents of the United States. Often the parents of American-born children, they have lived for years with the cloud of deportation hanging over their households.”
– Miriam Jordan, The New York Times

From removable to essential, undocumented workers have not been provided the respite they deserve in terms of their status. As a result of the DHS guidance, immigrant field workers now carry an “essential work” letter with them. While this letter certainly does not protect them from immigration authorities or deportation, it seems to provide undocumented individuals with a sense of security that they will not be arrested for violating stay-at-home orders.

As an immigration law firm, our team remains committed to advocating for the immigrant community, and are constantly working on helping to change the narrative around the topic of immigration – especially amidst one of the most anti-immigrant administrations our country has ever seen. We will continue to do this into the 2020 Election Season, and beyond, and we wish to once again stress the importance of Knowing Your Rights.

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