US President Donald Trump has defended his administration’s unprecedented immigration sweeping operations that led to the arrest of nearly 700 undocumented migrants in the southeastern United States.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump said, "I want people to know if they're coming into the US illegally, they're getting out," noting, "And this serves as a very good deterrent."
On Wednesday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement the agency had detained 680 people who were working illegally at seven food processing plants across the southern state of Mississippi.
About 600 ICE agents spread across the plants operated by five companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing.
Trump said when "people see what they saw (Wednesday), like they will see for a long time, they know that they’re not staying here."
Meanwhile, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Hurst, who was in charge of the operation, also defended the raids, but said officers made sure that the children could reconnect with their parents.
"We are unaware of any child presently w/o (without) a parent as a result of this operation," he tweeted on Thursday.
Many of those detained have been transported to an ICE facility in Jena, Louisiana, according to the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Mississippi.
Some of them have been released for “humanitarian reasons” but required to appear in US immigration court.
Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, called the “terrible” raids “another effort to drive Latinos out of Mississippi,” blaming Trump for fanning racism with his past incendiary comments about immigrants.
“This is the same thing that Trump is doing at the border with the Border Patrol,” he said, referring to the increased crackdown on migrants coming into the US.
On Thursday, former vice president and the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary race Joe Biden criticized the raids too, saying the operation was "simply wrong."
"What are we doing?" he asked during a meeting with Latinos and Asians as part of his campaign in Iowa.
"There are US-born children wondering whether or not they'll ever see their parents again."
The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before Trump visited El Paso, Texas, a majority-Hispanic city near the US-Mexico border where a man linked to a white supremacist group was charged with fatally shooting 22 people.
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