December 5, 2023

By Jessica Love and Talibah Smith

BWNC -August 7, 2019- Just hours ago, ICE raided Peco Food inc., a chicken plant in Canton, Mississippi and loaded buses of undocumented immigrant workers. Agents arrested 680 undocumented immigrants working at seven different processing plants across the state in an operation that has been underway for more than a year. The operation involved more than six hundred federal agents, approximately the same as the number of immigrants snatched away from their families, across several government agencies namely, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, US Immigrations and Customs and ICE. These agencies collaborated on what is said to be the largest single-state worksite enforcement operation in the nation’s history. 

Canton is approximately 15 miles away from my hometown, Camden, Mississippi.

Thousands of parents rose this morning and hurried bright-eyed children off to school. Kisses and hugs were filled with well-wishes. Smeared across many faces were smiles of love…and promise.

I remember my first days back to school so fondly. The nostalgic feel of entering a new classroom, the familiar smell of new pencils are all memories I will never forget.

I remember laying out my “first day outfit” the night before and hardly sleeping at all. I vividly recall carefully placing items in my bookbag and placing my shoes on top of its box. Those items sat in a chair across my room. I watched that chair until my eyes grew tired, because my heart never did.

That morning I arose extra early, excited to remove clothing tags and arm my new backpack. The first days of school were the few times I felt excited, nervous, brave and anew all in one.

I remember surviving those first days. But most of all, I awaited the same question from my mother each year, “how was your first day of school?”

Ice Rips Children From Immigrant Parents in Canton MS

Today, I wept all morning. Not because I’ve overgrown that experience, but because hundreds of immigrant children in Canton, Mississippi parents won’t be home to ask them, “How was your first day of school?”

I wept because this will stain their memory of firsts. I cried because this happened in my neighborhood’s backyard. I cried because I had the boldness to imagine that it could have been me.

I had to actually leave my desk, go to the bathroom and cry. This is America. Her temperance has changed and with that comes more awareness of those who have helped to fuel this rage.

Five years ago, I would have said that I didn’t care about your political stance, but I now know better. I understand that today, your political stance is a staunch symbol of who you are and the beliefs you hold about others unlike you.

Today, political affiliations are synonymous with identity and morality. The policies you support and the partisan ideologies you adopt are immediate cautionary notes that let me know if I can fuck with you or not.

I will not now or ever believe that the key to immigration reform is to rip apart families. It is inhumane, vile and immoral. How does America sleep at night?

Can you imagine how these children feel? Can you even conjure the idea of someone separating you from your child? I am not proud to be American. America cannot be this politically crazed that they discredit facts to go as far as separating families.

U.S. Southern District Attorney Mike Hurst said in a press conference following the raid, “We will continue to ensure that justice is done. And while we do welcome people from other countries, they have to come here legally or they should not come here at all. The same goes for employers. To those who use illegal aliens for a competitive advantage, we have something to say to you – if we find you violated the law… we’re coming after you.”

If you really believe this narrative and think immigrants are stealing American jobs, not only are you the problem, but you are uniformed. So I’m going to have to ask you to shut the fuck up and sit your dumb ass down.

Because immigrants will work jobs that folks who adopt this myth think are beneath them, employers actually rely on them because they will work for little to nothing, helping companies who are barely making it, protect their bottom line. Business sectors like agriculture and service cannot survive without immigrant workers. But, please, keep listening to your president that you say you hate. Because they will work for less, they keep prices of fruits and vegetables (which are already overpriced) down.

Because they will take low income jobs, there are more opportunities for native-born Americans to move up the economic ladder. Somebody has to do the so-called “poor jobs” so that lucrative ones can be available to yo’ dumb ass.

In general, a bigger population means more economic growth. That is common fucking sense. Why? Because they are also consumers, which means they buy products and services too, increasing the amount of jobs needed to meet those demands.

Studies repeatedly demonstrate this, but because y’all don’t know what a “bottom line is” or have not a clue about “the economy in which you live,” and have yet to read a single piece of literature besides a Facebook post, you don’t know a damn thing.

You don’t know that you are perpetuating racist myths the oppressors have long used to box your Black ass out of opportunities. But go ahead and go off.

Also, if you think that because you have experienced racism, displacing immigrants and their children is justified, you are the problem and no better than racist White people who fail to see what privilege is because they are blinded by it.

And don’t you ever fix your lip to tell another soul “I don’t care how you treat me, just don’t mistreat my children.” That sounds a lot like you, huh?

Then there are those who believe families being torn apart is a proper recourse because of drug trafficking. 

Our community knows all too well the realities of the drug war. We know the true devastating stories that are not televised. We are familiar, many times intimately, with those bodies that bear the brunt of the illegal drug epidemic in our country. So let us not all of a sudden get amnesia about who the real culprits are in the drug game. Let us not become ignorant and clueless about who the real enemies and the real victims are because I know that you know better. Hardworking immigrants at a chicken factory are not why drugs have pervaded many of our communities.

Bottomline, nothing is gained by our people from supporting and applauding the policies of this racist administration, who has significantly changed the course of direction in this country towards more xenophobia and nationalism. Especially when we ourselves are still almost completely marginalized in every aspect of this American society. Literary giant, Toni Morrison, once said that if you can only be tall when someone is on their knees, then you have a very serious problem. She was talking about White people, but I wonder if she should also be talking about some of us.

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