On August 7, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Officers raided seven food processing plants around the central part of the state, including Koch Foods and Pecos Foods poultry plants. Hundreds of immigrants that were working at the plants to support their families were arrested and placed in detention facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. After the initial arrest, almost half of the workers were released, but unable to return to work. Many still remain in detention facilities.
Now, 3 weeks after the ICE raids, it is estimated that over 500 immigrant families from the Mississippi communities of Canton, Carthage, Forest, Morton and Laurel are living in households with no income to pay their bills for rent, utilities, medical supplies, baby supplies, household items and food. Individuals, organizations and faith-based groups both from Mississippi and across the country have responded to the need with monetary and in-kind donations as well as their volunteer support. As we look to the future, it is difficult to see an end in sight to this crisis, making it necessary to secure ongoing support to assist these families.
How monetary and in-kind donations are reaching families in need:
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Jackson immediately began accepting monetary donations after hearing news of the ICE raids. We are in regular contact with the Catholic parishes and other distribution sites closest to where the affected families are residing. Monetary donations designated to assist with direct assistance of immigrant families are being sent to parish/church leaders who are organizing volunteers to meet with families to verify eligibility of funds and determine a priority of need. Funds are prioritized for payment of rent, utilities and other expenses that only money can help with. Parish/church leaders are making checks payable to landlords, utility companies, etc. on behalf of the immigrant family. In-kind donations, such as diapers, hygiene kits, household items and food are distributed at the local level. Catholic Charities is now prepared to accept in-kind donations that will be available to churches at the local level when their supplies run low.
Mental health support
Catholic Charities has also organized an Emotional Care team to respond to the emotional needs of immigrant adults and children as they struggle through the uncertainty of their life situation. The team will be visiting each of the sites providing resource information and identify critical mental health needs of individuals. Emotional care kits are being requested that include items such as stress balls, small bottles of bubbles, play dough, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, journal books, pencil sharpeners, games such as candy land, decks of cards, Uno cards, 25 piece puzzles, books for kids, stuffed animals and a small cinch bag to carry items.
Supportive financial gifts needed
As Catholic Charities continues to be involved with this ministry, indirect costs are beginning to mount for expenses such as making copies of mental health resource material to be distributed to families, mailing thank you letters, maintaining a warehouse for in-kind donations and transportation to sites. While we strive to maintain the practice of delivering 100% of “direct service” donations to families in need, we are also seeking donors that understand the challenge of maintaining adequate operations for sustainability of resources.