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Mississippi ICE Raids Result in 680 Arrests

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  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 680 undocumented immigrants at seven food-processing facilities in Mississippi on Wednesday.
  • The raid is the largest one-day, single-state sweep in U.S. history.
  • Many children stayed at school late or came home to empty houses after the raids. Some children reportedly spent the night in a public gym, with neighbors and friends donating food for them.
  • On Thursday, ICE released five busloads of workers, with the terms of those releases still unknown.

ICE Arrests 680 Undocumented Workers

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a raid across six Mississippi towns on Wednesday, resulting in the arrests of 680 undocumented workers in what is now the largest one-day, single-state raid in U.S. history.

The raids occurred at seven chicken-processing plants in towns near Jackson, as part of a yearlong investigation. 

ICE officials have not stated how many people they originally targeted and how many were “collateral” arrests, but the agency obtained both criminal and administrative warrants to conduct the raid.

During the raid, about 650 ICE agents surrounded the plants to prevent workers from escaping. Most of the workers arrested are Latino.

The detainees were then processed at a National Guard hanger near Jackson, where they formed seven lines ⁠— one to represent each of the raided plants.

ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence said the workers will move to immigration proceedings. He also said they may be released but only if they don’t have any criminal records or orders to be deported.

Albence also said the agency would work “swiftly” to remove anyone with deportation orders and some immigrants would face criminal charges.

Then on Thursday, five busloads of workers were released, though the terms of that release are still unclear.

Businesses Warned

U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said the agency is “coming after” any business that violates federal criminal law. Part of that could include charges for tax evasion, wage fraud, and the hiring of undocumented workers.

Peco Farms and Koch Foods have since issued statements saying they are working with ICE. Both said they use E-Verify, a government-run program through the Department of Homeland Security, to hire employees who meet the legal requirements to work in the U.S.

Still, undocumented workers have been able to get around E-Verify by using the identities of legal residents or dead citizens. They have also used the social security numbers of their American-born children.

“While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that, we are first and foremost a nation of laws,” Hurst said in a press conference. “They have to come here legally or they shouldn’t come here at all.” 

Last week, the former owner of a meatpacking plant was sentenced to 18 months in prison after a raid at his facility in April 2018. He was found guilty of avoiding $1.3 million in taxes.

That raid resulted in the arrests of 86 undocumented workers.

The 2006 Swift raids remain the largest single-day roundup of undocumented workers in U.S. history, though those raids occurred across six states. Most of the 1,300 people detained in those raids were deported.

Separation of Families

Following yesterday’s raid, many children either came home to find a parent missing or were unable to leave school. 

Alex Love, a reporter with WJTV in Jackson, tweeted that some children were taken to a local gym for the night, with food and drinks being donated to them.

“I need my dad by me,” the 11-year-old daughter of an arrested worker tearfully said to the reporter. “My dad didn’t do nothing. He’s not a criminal.”

Albence defended the raid, saying that arrests in the criminal justice system lead to family separation. He said children might need to be relocated with other family members.

Despite the separation, some have met the raid with praise, while noting the stress it can cause children. 

Others have been more critical of the entire sweep. 

“Let’s be clear: ICE raids of this scale are not conducted for the purpose of immigration enforcement,” Texas Representative Joaquin Castro said in a statement. “They’re to strike fear in our communities in a time when Latinos are already living in terror.”

Legal Counsel

Claudia Valenzuela, an attorney with the American Immigration Council, said she fears workers will have a hard time obtaining legal counsel, in part because rural Mississippi lacks robust legal aid for immigrants.

She said that with an arrest of this size, finding counsel would even be hard for a city like New York or Chicago.

The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center have both urged immigrants not to talk to ICE agents. They also warned people not to open doors without a warrant and demand to speak to a lawyer.

See what others are saying: (Clarion Ledger) (WJTV) (NBC)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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