Five Years Later: Remembering the Mississippi Workplace Raids

We are approaching the fifth anniversary of a deeply troubling moment in our nation’s history. On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, over the course of just a few hours, approximately 600 federal agents detained 680 people working in food processing plants in the small Mississippi towns of  Canton, Carthage, Forest, Morton, Sebastopol, Bay Springs and Pelahatchie.

It is true that immigration, as a matter of public policy, is complex. It is also true that undocumented immigrants sometimes commit horrible acts of violence, just as native-born citizens sometimes do.

However, the people arrested that day almost five years ago were at work. They were moms and dads, toiling hard to care for their families when their lives and their children’s lives were upended. This was an act of government muscle-flexing against some of our most vulnerable neighbors. 

Five years later, I wonder how these families remember that day and the subsequent weeks. 

None of us who were on the outside looking in can begin to know the depth of pain and fear those families experienced and still experience. It was a traumatic day for many dear and good souls. It is a day the rest of us would do well to recall, with repentance for the dehumanizing words and actions of many in our own nation concerning immigrants. 

People of faith might spend a moment, five years later, in solidarity with those who were arrested by reading the story of Jesus’ family– asylum-seeking parents fleeing political violence– in Matthew 2:13-23. 

It would be good for us to repeat Leviticus 19:34 with and to our children and friends– “You shall love the immigrant as yourself.”

We should also recite Leviticus 25:23, the heart-stopping reminder that since all the land in the world belongs to God, in God’s eyes, we are all immigrants.

In the days immediately following the workplace raids of August 7, 2019, I wrote a small, simple hymn based on those words from Leviticus 25:23, a song of solidarity with immigrants. It is to be sung to the familiar hymn tune, “

After 45 years of pastoral life, during which he served churches in Georgia, North Carolina,Washington DC, and Jackson,Mississippi, Poole retired in 2022. He is the author of eight books, including The Path to Depth (Nurturing Faith Books, 2022), as well as numerous published articles and the lyrics to three hymns.

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