Months after she went in front of cameras to beg for her dad’s freedom after he was swept up during massive workplace immigration raids targeting a number of Mississippi food processing plants, 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio got her wish. CNN reports that her dad, Andres Gomez-Jorge, was finally released last week after his advocates raised thousands to secure his bond.
Gomez-Jorge had been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in August, along with 700 other workers across six cities, leaving kids coming home from school to walk into empty houses. Neighbors, and even strangers, drove some children to a community center to be looked after. It was no consolation for kids like Magdalena, who was among them and whose televised plea for her dad’s release highlighted the human costs of this state-sanctioned barbarity.
“Government, please show some heart. I need my dad and mommy. My dad didn’t do anything, he’s not a criminal,” she cried in viral video. “His wife, Juana, who asked to be identified only by her first name out of fear for her family's safety, didn't sleep for days while waiting for word about her husband,” CNN continued.
But while Gomez-Jorge is now free, ICE’s actions cost him his livelihood at the plant, “and is struggling to find work. He wants to work in construction but he says jobs are scarce because it is starting to get cold.” The family has been depending on donations to get by. Meanwhile, “there are still no charges filed against any of the owners or companies involved in employing the more than 650 undocumented workers that were detailed after the raids.”
During a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing in the state this week, legislators criticized ICE official Jere Miles for even failing to know exactly how many families were separated by his raids. "Do you realize how indicting that answer is?" Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee asked. ICE had claimed that some detained workers with young kids were released on “humanitarian grounds,” but more than a week after the raids, some remained without their parents.
“The trauma of these children is too painful,” Rev. Odel Medina of St. Anne Catholic Church told legislators. “They do not understand why their parents have been arrested.” ICE’s reign of terror continued far beyond the sweeps, because hundreds of kids skipped school after the raids. “Part of it is fear, the fear of coming to school,” said Scott County School District superintendent Tony McGee. “There is an uneasiness of moving around the community, moving about schools, but we are trying to reassure them: School is a safe harbor.”
“The lawmakers also interrogated Miles about a common refrain among advocates and Democrats: that undocumented immigrants are apprehended and potentially deported, while the people and companies who hired them typically evade prosecution for employing unauthorized workers,” CBS News reported. William Truly, mayor of one of the towns targeted by ICE, praised the Latino community and targeted workers as “folks who work and pay taxes, purchase goods, take care of each other and their families."
Folks like Andres Gomez-Jorge and his family. CNN reported that while they’re “extremely happy” to be together again, without so much as any information about when he’ll have his immigration court date, they are in limbo. "I don't know what I will do,” he said. “I don't know what will happen.”