'Let our voices be heard': March against immigration raids

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.

Posted: Aug 11, 2019 11:09 PM

CANTON, Miss. (AP) — 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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16560

Reported Deaths: 794
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds107426
Madison76728
Lauderdale75968
Neshoba72844
Jones70133
Scott66312
Forrest59539
DeSoto57510
Rankin4569
Leake45212
Holmes44330
Copiah3294
Jackson31415
Attala31118
Yazoo2964
Newton2884
Lincoln28031
Leflore27736
Oktibbeha27314
Harrison2697
Monroe26925
Wayne2623
Lamar2505
Lowndes2479
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20316
Washington1987
Warren19610
Lee1948
Noxubee1936
Covington1792
Bolivar16911
Jasper1674
Clarke15619
Smith15511
Kemper15511
Lafayette1544
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1314
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1155
Lawrence1071
Grenada1074
Simpson1040
Yalobusha1046
Sunflower923
Tate911
Hancock9012
Union897
Itawamba897
Marshall873
Wilkinson859
Panola843
Montgomery841
Webster844
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun674
Amite661
Walthall640
Humphreys637
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw502
Pontotoc473
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie301
George292
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18766

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2321118
Jefferson1901104
Montgomery185843
Tuscaloosa83616
Marshall7089
Franklin5858
Lee56234
Shelby52819
Tallapoosa43466
Butler42118
Walker3862
Elmore3749
Chambers36026
Madison3534
Unassigned3062
Morgan3021
Baldwin2939
Dallas2923
Lowndes26512
Etowah26312
DeKalb2573
Autauga2415
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2176
Pike2120
Colbert1902
Hale1859
Russell1810
Barbour1771
Marengo1756
Lauderdale1722
Calhoun1673
Wilcox1577
Choctaw15310
Cullman1521
Clarke1492
St. Clair1351
Randolph1287
Dale1240
Marion12411
Pickens1205
Talladega1195
Limestone1080
Chilton1071
Greene954
Macon934
Winston910
Jackson833
Covington821
Henry822
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington736
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe462
Geneva440
Perry430
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Lamar280
Fayette160
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