Immigration Raids Increase Racial Tension in Mississippi and Across Country

On August 25, 2008, the largest single immigration raid in U.S. history took place in Laurel, Mississippi, at the city’s biggest employer, Howard Industries (which produces commercial and industrial products). That day, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took into custody nearly 600 Hispanic, undocumented workers.

According to the Associated Press, workplace raids reached their highest point in 2008, with 6,287 arrests—ten times what the number was in 2003. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the government announced an increase in these such crackdowns in the name of national security.
When asked if these raids have produced any terror-related arrests, ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez replied, “Not to my knowledge.”

Yet these crackdowns continue in the name of national security. The fallout, of course, has been an increase in racial tensions across the U.S. Almost six months after the massive Laurel raid, in this historically racist town—Sam H. Bowers, suspected in hundreds of attacks including the infamous Mississippi Burning murders of three voter registration workers, lived in Laurel—more and more hatred is being directed at Hispanic workers, and the Klu Klux Klan has started targeting Latinos. In the last two years, it’s been widely reported that the KKK is back in full force, this time rebranding itself as anti-immigration, specifically “Mexicans” as they blast on their blogs and recruiting websites. Anti-Latino attacks throughout the country are also on the rise (note the recent murders of Ecuadorean immigrants Marcelo Lucero and Jose O. Sucuzhanay in New York and Luis Ramirez in Pennsylvania).

Back in August when hundreds of undocumented Howard employees were being taken away, their non-Hispanic colleagues jeered, cheered and some even screamed, “Go back to where you came from!” Today, 414 of the arrested have been deported, 23 have left voluntarily and 27 were released on bond pending immigration hearings. The rest—mostly women and children—were released while they wait for the results of their cases. Many of these are forced to wear ankle monitoring devices and are banned from leaving the state until their cases are tried.