During the height of a record-setting immigration sweep at chicken processing plants in Mississippi in August, the Rev. Odel Medina of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Carthage turned his parish into a makeshift legal and counseling center.
Immigration lawyers and social workers who were scrambling to help affected families gathered at the church to help immigrant families navigate a path forward. Nearly 700 workers, mostly Latino, were arrested in the raids. Officials called it the biggest work site immigration enforcement operation in a single state.
Medina coordinated hot meals and had a child psychologist ready to assist children who found themselves traumatized by the sudden separation from a parent.
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At least 100 families out of the 800 that are members of his parish were affected, he said.
When news of the raid broke, Medina said it was like “a hurricane or an earthquake.” He went to a small ICE office nearby to find out what was happening and did not find anyone. “I felt impotent,” he said.
Medina said the work hasn’t stopped since the raids. Now that many are out of a job and awaiting trial, he's been raising money to help them pay rent, providing food, diapers, baby formula and other household needs.
“I had to find help and support the community." Medina said. "These people were working, they are not criminals. They were not out killing people at Walmart.”