Mississippi Priest Loses Half His Congregation After ICE Raid

Tags: Currents, Family, Hispanic, Hispanic Catholics, ICE Raids, Immigrants, Immigration, World News

Currents News Staff

In the largest single-state immigration raid in U.S. history, hundreds were rounded up in Mississippi this month.

In Forrest, Mississippi, Father Roberto Mena says he’s lost half his congregation.

At the start of Thursday Mass at his church the pews were mostly empty.

Two weeks ago, ICE agents carried out one of the largest raids in American history, and they took as many as 150 people from Fr. Mena’s congregation.

Every one of the worshippers left have been impacted by what happened.

Fr. Mena has tried to reassure his parishioners that they’re going to be okay, though even he admits that since the raids, most of his dreams have been nightmares.

As Mass ended, parishioners were encouraged to pray to God out-loud.

One woman pleaded to God for parents to be reunited with their children. It’s a desperate prayer, but for many, their faith is all that’s left.

Gaspar Gomez Pablo says he needs help with an attorney. Along with his wife, the 33-year-old was detained in the recent raids at the Koch foods.

While he was released with an ankle monitor, his wife is still being held. Though they’ve lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years, both of their futures, he says, are uncertain.

He said his children are sad, that they don’t eat much, and ask about their mom. They want to know when she’ll be back.

“I think now the Hispanics are living the same kind of discrimination and racism that others faced in the past,” said Fr. Mena.

He also said no one in the community seemed to be prepared for the possibility of a raid, or the chance that their family might be split up.

“For me, separating families is the work of the evil one among us. This is something I don’t understand, why they want to divide families and they are family, they are contributing to this country, all of them, they pay taxes and they are connected to this culture,” Fr. Mena said.

Of the 680 employees that were detained as a result of these raids, at least 70 have been charged for things that include illegal reentry into the United States, as well as falsifying documents. According to an ICE official, for those wondering whether or not the owners of these companies that were raided would be charged as well, that decision will ultimately be left up to the U.S. Attorney’s office.