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A passage from Anne Frank‘s diary during her time in hiding in World War II has been widely circulated in recent days, with activists drawing parallels between her persecution nearly a century ago and President Donald Trump‘s immigration policies now.
The prominent progressive writer Shaun King appears to have been the first person to put a spotlight on the Frank quote, on Friday retweeting an April post from the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
That post from the spring, quoting Anne’s diary from 1943, read: “Terrible things are happening outside… poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”
Re-sharing it last week, in a tweet that was itself shared tens of thousands of times, King added, “Read this quote from Anne Frank in light of exactly what happened this week with the largest ICE raids in American history – where parents were literally taken while their kids were at school and the kids literally found out when nobody was there to pick them up.”
King was referring to a large-scale series of immigration raids last Wednesday morning at seven food processing plants in Mississippi, in which hundreds of people were detained after illegally working there, according to authorities.
The raids prompted praise and severe criticism. Mississippi’s governor, Phil Bryant, commended the work of prosecutors and ICE agents, tweeting, “If you are here illegally violating federal laws, you have to bear the responsibility of that federal violation.”
But the mayor of Jackson, the state’s capital, said the raids were “dehumanizing and inhumane,” serving “only [to] further alienate communities from law enforcement,” according to the Clarion-Ledger.
While one Jackson city councilman agreed with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, telling the Clarion-Ledger, “It’s frustrating to see us spend all of these resources going after people who are just trying to survive,” another councilman said such criticism was wrong-headed.
“We’re a nation of laws and when you don’t have laws, you have chaos,” he told the paper.
Read this quote from Anne Frank in light of exactly what happened this week with the largest ICE raids in American history - where parents were literally taken while their kids were at school and the kids literally found out when nobody was there to pick them up. https://t.co/UgTu5NGdmD
— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 9, 2019
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The ICE acting director, Matthew Albence, told the Associated Press that the raids on Wednesday may have been the largest such workplace operation in any U.S. state ever. The Washington Post reported that it was.
Giant workplace raids like those undertaken Wednesday had been eschewed under President Barack Obama, according to the AP. But President Trump, who has made limiting both legal and illegal immigration a priority of his administration, favors them as did the administration of Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Wednesday’s raids involved some 600 agents. The aftermath, for friends and family of those detained, was as chaotic as the arrests were carefully planned.
An unknown number of children of various ages were left, suddenly, without their parents — unsure what to do after school or what to do for dinner. News reports described families waving goodbye as their relatives were bused away.
One 12-year-old girl’s mother was taken into custody, forcing her to stay with a family friend while they waited for the mother to be released, according to the Post.
“The girl is devastated for her mom,” Elizabeth Iraheta, who took the child in, told the Post. “We still don’t know if she will be released. The girl is in bad shape, very sad. We’re waiting for her mom.”
In other cases, school officials told bus drivers to return children to the school unless they could verify that a parent or guardian was waiting at home for them, according to the Clarion-Ledger. One district superintendent told the Clarion-Ledger he knew of six families with parents who were snared by the raids
“We’ll worry about the school part of it after we get all this sorted out,” Superintendent Tony McGee told the paper. “You can’t expect a child to stay focused on the schoolwork when he’s trying to focus on where mom and dad are.”
“We all know there is a bigger picture in all this,” McGee said. “We’re not here to navigate those waters. We’re here to try to help families get together as best they can.”
Local news station WJTV described how children who were left without caretakers following the raids were cared for by neighbors, sometimes even strangers, with some of them temporarily taken to a community gym.
“Government please show some heart,” one 11-year-old girl, in tears, told WJTV. “Let my parent be free.”
An ICE spokesman stressed to PEOPLE and other news outlets that officials took multiple steps (such as providing cell phones) to allow parents to coordinate care for their children after they were taken into custody.
In an interview airing Tuesday night on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Albence, the ICE director, said, “I’m a parent, most of our officers and agents are parents — some of the most difficult things that we have to do in our jobs to enforce the laws involve the separation of parents from children. … However, we have to enforce the law.”