ICE says its releases are meant to keep families together as deportation cases move through the courts.
Scarcely a day since an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid led to the arrest of 700 workers in Mississippi, federal prosecutors announced that half the detained have been released.
According to National Public Radio, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security claim have to taken 680 people into custody. It was described as a “record setting” result, with agents targeting seven sites in six separate cities.
But a Thursday statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi says an estimated 300 “aliens” have been released pending proceedings.
“Preliminarily, it appears that approximately 30 detained aliens were released yesterday on humanitarian grounds at the individual sites where they were initially encountered,” the statement said. “Another 270 detained aliens were released after being processed at the National Guard base in Pearl and returned to the place where they were originally encountered.”
ICE spokesperson Brian Cox said there may still be consequences for the detained.
“They were placed into proceedings before the federal immigration courts and will have their day in court at a later date,” Cox wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Cox, adds the BBC, said immigrants were asked a series of questions after being picked up. Among other things, they were asked whether they had any dependents who’d be adversely affected by their absence—young children at home, or kids who needed to be picked up from school.
While some detainees were only allowed to make “childcare arrangements,” others were “expeditiously processed and returned.”
Critics—like the Southern Poverty Law Center—were quick to blast the raids as cruel, especially in the wake of last weekend’s shooting in El Paso, Texas. There, a suspect with alleged white supremacist sympathies opened fire on shoppers at a local Wal-Mart.
However, Cox said that precautions were taken to ensure that panic wouldn’t break out. Department of Homeland Security agents purportedly contacted local schools, with contact information to be passed on to any immigrant children whose parents suddenly vanished.
“This agency took extensive steps in planning for this operation to take special care of situations involving adults who may have childcare situations or children at school at the time of their arrest,” Cox said.
ICE also added that whenever it arrested two immigrant parents, its agents released at least one to ensure their children would still be taken care of.
“Based on these procedures, it is believed that all children were with at least one of their parents as of last night,” ICE’s statement said.