MORTON, Miss. — Ever since his father was rounded up in the massive immigration work site raids in Mississippi this week, Nery, who is 6 and autistic, has refused to eat, according to his older sister.
“He hasn’t eaten anything, he looks at the food and he doesn’t eat,” Stefany, 18, told NBC News on Friday.
Both Stefany’s father and aunt were among the almost 700 arrested during work site raids in Mississippi targeting food processing plants Wednesday — an operation officials have said is the largest single-state enforcement action in U.S. history.
In the aftermath of the raids, hundreds of families like Stefany's are grappling with an uncertain future as their loved ones face deportation proceedings.
Stefany, who asked that her family name not be used because of safety concerns, said she does not know where her father and aunt are and she was becoming increasingly worried about her brother Nery, who relied on his father.
“I’m really scared because I don’t know what to do,” said Stefany, the oldest of six children.
She said every time someone comes to visit their home, Nery tries to peer into the car as if he were looking for his father.
"He really needs my dad, my dad is the only thing he needs,” she said, adding her father is the only one who could keep Nery calm as he took him to therapist appointments, because Nery is sensitive to noises like that of other cars.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday that of the approximately 680 people detained and suspected of being undocumented, about 300 have been released from custody and placed into proceedings before federal immigration courts. Those who remained detained were being held in Louisiana and Mississippi, the officials said.
The administration has defended the tactics of the raids and said it took precautions to ease the burden on families, but one ICE official added, "We are a law enforcement agency, not a social services agency." Immigration advocates have condemned the operation and pointed to images of sobbing children leaving their first week of school to find their parents were gone.
Stefany said her father was driving his sister to work Wednesday morning, with his 3-year-old daughter Ingrid in the car. They then saw that the food processing plant in Morton, where they both worked was being raided by ICE.
Stefany, a high school senior in Morton, said she was in school when she heard the news.
Her aunt called crying and told her that immigration authorities had found them hiding in their car, she said.
She said she could hear her father telling someone that “he has six kids and one with autism.”
“I just heard screaming, people screaming at him that they’re going to take him to jail,” she said. “I was just crying.”
Her father and her aunt were detained in front of Ingrid, who was sitting in the back seat of the car, Stefany said. It wasn’t until about two hours later that the little girl was released to another aunt, she said.
Stefany said her little sister now keeps saying, “Daddy, where is Daddy?”
"It was the only thing she was saying," she said.
Stefany added she hoped President Donald Trump and immigration officials would think about the families devastated by the raids.
"I just want them to know that kids are suffering," she said.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Morton, Brenda, a mother of five who also asked her last name not be used, was still waiting to hear from her husband. She said in Spanish that she found it strange when her husband had not yet returned home from work at the time he usually does, and she heard a helicopter flying overhead.
Then, a friend called and told her immigration authorities had come to the food processing plant where she and her husband worked.
"He is the father of my children, who has supported me in everything," Brenda said through tears from her home. "I don't know what I am going to do without him."
Gabe Gutierrez and Annie Rose Ramos reported from Morton, Mississippi, and Daniella Silva reported from New York.