FOREST, Miss. (WJTV) — Following a massive undocumented immigration enforcement operation resulting in more than 650 arrests, many children of those taken into custody were left temporarily homeless.
Community leaders in Forest, Mississippi brought the children to a community gym to provide care and comfort. 12 News reporter Alex Love was granted permission to talk to community leaders and the children.
Children relied on neighbors and strangers to pick them up outside their homes after school. They drove the children to a community center where people tried to keep them calm. But many kids could not stop crying for mom and dad.
Fighting back tears, Magdalena Gomez Gregorio, 11, expressed to us her devastation.
“Government please show some heart,” Gregoria cried. “Let my parent be free.”
This came after ICE agents raided several food processing plants in Mississippi arresting 680 people believed to be in the country illegally.
“While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that we are first and foremost a nation of laws,” Southern District U.S Attorney Mike Hurst argued.
But those children and families who spoke to 12 News impacted by each raid stressed their parents and friends are good people.
“I need my dad and mommy,” Gregorio told 12 News. “My dad didn’t do anything, he’s not a criminal.”
“Their mom’s been here for 15 years and she has no record,” Christina Peralta told us. “A lot of people here have no record they’ve been here for 10-12 years.”
Christina Peralta, the godmother of two children whose mom was arrested, told 12 News she feels helpless as she watches the boys wonder when they’ll see their mother again.
“He said his mom is gone, that he’s upset with Trump, he said he just wants his mom back,” Peralta continued. “And they’ve been crying all day long since they got home from school.”
But with the help of Clear Creek Boot Camp owner Jordan Barnes and other community leaders, the kids will have a place to sleep. Good Samaritans have also donated food.
“We’re going to have bedding available for them and we’re going to have food available for them just to get them through the night,” Barnes explained. “And if they need transportation to school tomorrow we’ll also take care of that.”
And in times like these, those in Forest stress you cannot forget the children.
“I understand the law and how everything works and everything needs to have a system,” Barnes stated. “But everybody needs to hold the kids first and foremost in their minds and that’s what we’ve tried to do here is give them a place to stay and ease the pain a little bit.”