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In the Wake of ICE Arrests, Community Leaders, Groups Seek 'More Compassion' for Families

Mark Haslett
Mark Haslett, KETR News
During the early afternoon of Aug. 28, ICE arrested and detained 159 undocumented workers.

U.S. Customs & Immigration Enforcement said Friday that the number of undocumented workers arrested in an enforcement raid on a Sumner-area business is 159. Of those, 145 were Mexico nationals. The remainder a mix of Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran nationals.

In a statement, ICE said six of those arrested (five men, one woman) went before a federal immigration judge and were released on  "humanitarian grounds." The remainder are in ICE custody at facilities in Northern Texas and Southern Oklahoma, pending depositions of their case and criminal background checks.

The arrests followed an August 28 enforcement action against Load Trail, a manufacturing business based just outside of Sumner, in Lamar County.

Reaction to the Aug. 28 enforcement action has generated a much grassroots support for those arrested and their families. In addition to protests in and near Paris, community groups are blasting ICE’s actions against trailer maker Load Trail.

Julio Acosta, social justice director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, spoke out against ICE at a protest in Paris on Thursday, saying the organization wants ICE to know that "that we’re not standing idly by."

In a video posted on LULAC's Facebook page, Acosta said LULAC's job in the wake of the arrests is "to awaken the hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands" of Americans who can speak out against such enforcement raids.

Sol Villasana is the president of the Rockwall LULAC Council. He calls ICE’s heavily armed response to undocumented workers in Sumner it’s own kind of terrorism.

"We do see it kind of as another kind of terroristic way of dealing," he says. "That really continues to unsettle us in the Latino community in North Texas."

Catherine Krantz, Democratic Congressional candidate for U.S. House District 4, also likens ICE’s actions in Sumner to terrorism. Krantz says the U.S. immigration system needs to be less militaristic and more compassionate.

"What we’re doing now doesn’t really work and it’s just terrorizing out communities," she says. Rather than armed teams and military vehicles, she says, such enforcement could be undertaken through paperwork and without "spectacle."

She says the way ICE is handling arrests these days is based in "a xenophobia, hysteria, and I think we just need to take a deep breath and take a step back and realize these people are not the enemy."

Krantz says the workers at Load Trail are not dangerous and are, rather, valuable citizens and workers. She says she’s concerned for the families and she’s also concerned about the message such raids send to businesses in Northeast Texas.

"That’s the real risk here," she says. "What’s to keep these companies from just picking up and moving to Mexico? They employ over 500 people in Lamar County and we don’t want to lose them."

U.S Rep John Ratcliffe (R-4) did not respond to a request for comment.

Community groups have mobilized their own actions in the days following the arrests. Villasana says LULAC national and the Rockwall Council are heavily involved in collecting supplies and raising funds for the families of those arrested on Aug. 28. Immigration advocacy group RAICES is also in Lamar County to provide counseling and help with the bills.

Area church groups including Greenville’s Wesley United Methodist Church are also facilitating relief efforts for detainees’ families. Iglesia Evangelica Filadelfia church in Paris is serving as a temporary shelter for those afraid to return to their homes.

The church is also sponsoring a GoFundMe page in search of 160 thousand dollars to help families meet rent and provide food and supplies. 

Scott Morgan has been an award-winning journalist since 2001. His work has appeared in several newspapers and magazines as well as online. He has also been an editor, freelancer, speaker, writing teacher, author, and podcaster.