CANTON, Miss. — The children of Sacred Heart Catholic Church streamed out into Mississippi’s heat on a blistering Sunday afternoon, carrying what they said was a message of opposition against immigration raids their parents could not.

“I will not sit in silence while my parents are taken away,” read a sign carried by two Hispanic boys. They were among a group of several dozen marchers who set out on foot from the church to the town square in Canton to protest the 680 migrant arrests at seven poultry plants in Mississippi last Wednesday.

“Imagine coming home and not finding your parents,” said Dulce Basurto-Arce, an 18-year-old community college student, describing how parents of friends were arrested. “We are marching so no other kid has to go through what we went through. Let our voices be heard!”

Basurto-Arce spoke from the steps of the same courthouse in Canton where Martin Luther King Jr. once rallied protesters against segregation in a 1966 “March Against Fear” across Mississippi.

Churches were the backbone of the civil rights movement. Today, as President Donald Trump and Republican allies continue to defend the raids, churches have emerged as the top sources of spiritual and material support to the mostly Mexican and Guatemalan workers targeted by the raids.

Some churches are going beyond comfort and material aid, with their response flaring into political opposition. The state’s Catholic, Episcopal, United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran bishops denounced the raids in a joint statement Friday.

The bishops said they would aid the immigrant families, saying there is “an urgent and critical need at this time to avoid a worsening crisis.”

“We are called ... to speak the truth. And the truth is, this is not right,” said Bishop Brian Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, speaking at a news conference one day after the raids.

On Sunday, Trump administration officials defended their actions, amid emotional pleas from children to let their parents go.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan acknowledged that one video of an 11-year-old sobbing was “emotional” but said the girl was quickly reunited with her mother.

“I understand that the girl is upset. And I get that,” Morgan said on CNN. “But her father committed a crime.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan acknowledged that the timing of the raids was “unfortunate,” coming hours before Trump visited El Paso, Texas, where a man who told authorities he was targeting Mexicans killed 22 people on Aug. 3. But McAleenan told NBC the operation had been planned for more than a year.

Hours after the officials’ televised appearances, more than 250 people filled Sacred Heart to overflowing. A few were white people there to show support, but most were Hispanic congregants who normally attend the weekly Spanish-language Mass.

Deacon Cesar Sanchez, who is originally from Mexico’s Michoacan state and is studying to be a priest in the Jackson diocese, gave a homily in Spanish in which he spoke of Jesus also being an immigrant and a refugee. He said the church is a pilgrim church and that “God is with his people.”

The Canton church has emerged as a hub of the community’s response to the raid. Its pastor, the Rev. Mike O’Brien, stood with parishioners until 4 a.m. Thursday outside the Peco Foods plant in Canton, awaiting those freed from custody that night. O’Brien said he drove several people home who had hidden from federal agents inside the plant and emerged late at night.

Those arrested and released can’t work legally and their families may face one last paycheck as income dries up. Immigration court dates may not be until 2020 because of a deep backlog. Those who face court proceedings must also pay for their own lawyers or go without, and may have court dates at locations hundreds of miles away.

“What are their children going to eat?” the Rev. Jason Coker, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Mississippi, asked last week.

In answer, churches including Sacred Heart are collecting food, diapers and money. They’re helping members meet lawyers.

Maria Rodriguez is one person looking to churches for help. She said Sunday at Sacred Heart that her husband, Gumensihdo Rodriguez-Lopez, had been seized by federal agents at Peco and is now held in Natchez, Mississippi.

As she talked, she rocked the youngest of the couple’s five children, Azael, in his stroller. “He’s sad for his father,” she said in Spanish of the fussy toddler. “Everyone is sad.”

“We really need him back because we have kids and I don’t work,” she said through a translator. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Other religious groups are helping, too.

Pastor Hugo Villegas is a missionary for the Scott County Baptist Association, overseeing a Spanish-speaking mission in Morton, where two plants were raided, as well as two in the larger neighboring town of Forest. People have been droping off donations for the families at the Baptist association’s food pantry and clothes closet.

But Tere Villegas, the pastor’s wife, said few Hispanic families typically come to the pantry so they are spreading the word that aid is available. She added, English-speaking Baptists “have been helping out any way they can.”

————

Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(27) comments

Russian

Americans are to entitled and lazy to support a successful capitalistic economy that’s why we are 23t in debt and have a nation full of foreigners

Samanthapowers

Hungry and scared children - no matter what they look like or come from - is beneath the dignity of this great nation. That lack of dignity starts at 1600.

Comment deleted.
Samanthapowers

Sicki - you realize we helped create the humanitarian crisis we are experiencing? You do get that, don’t you?

rikkitikkitavvi

Please elaborate on how we did that. the word elaborate means: involving many carefully arranged parts or details; detailed and complicated in design and planning:

develop or present (a theory, policy, or system) in detail:

Samanthapowers

you know, rik, i always go by the axiom that we have more that unites, than divides us. do you? it seems like you constantly look to pick on, demean, or generally criticize any one that has a differing opinion. ever heard of compromise? finding the common ground? thinking about what is best for all people in our great nation? ok, my soliloquy is over. i know, probably just a waste of time. blessed day.

rikkitikkitavvi

You know sam, I don't believe you do. Your past comments bear that out. It seems like you constantly look to pick on, demean, look to disdain (I added that one) or generally criticize anyone that has a differing opinion than yours. Once again, your past comments bear that out. I have heard of compromise. I have also heard of common ground. I also believe that if the party that lost the general election in 2016 does NOT believe in those two words as well as many other words. They have a terrible habit of projecting. Those losers are the party of divisiveness. If you give them an inch they will try to take a mile. They think, no, they truly believe that they know what's best for this country and every individual that lives within this great Nation. They will denigrate and disparage you with every tool they have to perpetuate that falsehood. It is the way they have worked it for generations. OK, my soliloquy is over. I know probably just a waste of time. Blessings to you too.

KR999

Excellent reply rik, your analysis of her is nothing short of spot on! And now she's going to be so tempted to berate me for writing this but she knows that if she does it would only prove you right! [lol]

bosco

" in which he spoke of Jesus also being an immigrant and a refugee"....the same Jesus who has been quoted as saying "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's."



If churches want to enter the political arena and urge people to break our laws, they should lose their tax exempt status.

rikkitikkitavvi

I agree with Bosco. The church should be neutral.

KR999

Yep [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

public-redux

I'd rather they (and other non-profits) lose their tax exemption regardless. Keep the tax base broad and the tax rates low.

rikkitikkitavvi

Let's stick with removing their tax exemptions first.

public-redux

No, if you don't link lowering tax rates at the same time you broaden the tax base (which you do by removing tax exemptions), then tax obligations increase. Why do you want taxes to go up?



Or perhaps your emphasis was on "their", meaning churches instead of all non-profits. Removing tax exemption on the basis of religion but keeping it for other non-profits would be unconstitutional.



Whatever you meant, you're wrong.

awteam2000

Bosco,

The Bible is full of verses encouraging helping the oppressed. I think you misunderstood the meaning “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's”. To pay taxes or not to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ answer was to pay the tax but not surrender your faith.

The denarius was a coin used as the tax money at the time. It was made of silver and featured an image of the emperor with an inscription calling him “divine.” The Jews considered such images idolatry, forbidden by the second commandment. Jesus was distinguishing the difference between Caesar’s power and a greater power, not of this world, the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately Jesus words have been taken out of context by many illiterate of the New Testament.

Jeepers11md

Why don't people understand ILLEGAL is ILLEGAL they are breaking the law, there is a legal way to become a citizen DO IT or get out those with children breaking them up I feel no pain FOLLOW the law and everyone would get along if you don't like the law pack your bags and I will help you leave this great country

rikkitikkitavvi

No. They can't take any bags. They bought the stuff in this country. Let them start anew.

Russian

While Russia injects racist turmoil in America they are robustly recruiting Islamic Middle Easterners and African families to mitigate their negative birthrate, conversely America puts Christian immigrants into cages to mitigate our racist republicans.

rikkitikkitavvi

If you can't beat them call them racist. Right rusty? Same old song and dance from the "I'm with her" crowd.

riccicc

My question is, why would they want to come here permanently? With people like AOC and Obama trying to make this country a socialist mess just like the country these folks just left, what would be the point of coming here in the first place?

rikkitikkitavvi

They want the same for this country that they have for those country's. They want all countries to be the same. Equal, remember.

rikkitikkitavvi

No!

riccicc

I haven't seen any immigration raids. I have seen some "illegal alien" raids. Those were ok since they were illegal aliens here illegally.

awteam2000

Not all the 680 people detained were undocumented and ICE only had warrants for 65 suspects but all had one thing in common. Because of the sheer worldwide outrage over the inhumanity by USA and the Trump administration for orphaning children, 300 where release within 24 hours, only with court summons. Unfortunately, they will not be allowed to return to work to support their families.

Want a job picking chickens? Koch Foods is hiring. $9.00 an hours, no benefits.

phydeaux994

Under the Immigration Laws of the USA the Employers hiring illegal aliens are equally guilty of breaking the law and should suffer a punishment as harsh as the illegal workers. But it stinks that an honest employer who needs workers American citizens won’t apply for can’t hire foreign workers who are desperate for the jobs and are hard working reliable people who will take the hardest, dirtiest, low paying jobs that are, unfortunately, still needed in our Country. Even with the millions of illegal aliens here, we are desperate for 6 million more agricultural workers, service workers, construction workers, long haul truck drivers, semi-skilled factory workers, on and on. It is pitiful, that in our great Country Political bickering keeps us from reasonable, Comprehensive Immigration Reform that would benefit employers, foreign workers, and the citizens of America.

riccicc

Exactly! The system could very easily allow those who wish to work, temporary 6 month working visas and then they wouldn't be here illegally and it wouldn't be illegal to hire them.

awteam2000

Only 140,000 reserved green cards are given out annually for immigrant workers – and, of those, only 5,000 are given to immigrants working in a job that does not require a college degree. The majority of undocumented immigrants work in so-called “low skill” jobs like construction, factory, restaurant, and childcare related work – occupations with strict limitations on work visas.

rikkitikkitavvi

Git 'er done phydo.

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