JACKSON, Miss. – Nearly half of the 680 people detained in Wednesday's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at food processing plants across Mississippi were released the same day, according to and ICE spokesman.
Bryan Cox, the spokesman, confirmed Thursday morning that 300 people were released from custody Wednesday night.
The raids occurred in small towns near Jackson with a workforce made up largely of Latino immigrants, including Bay Springs, Carthage, Canton, Morton, Pelahatchie and Sebastapol. About 600 agents fanned out across the plants involving several companies, surrounding the perimeters to prevent workers from fleeing.
The raids follow President Donald Trump's calls for widespread enforcement of immigration laws and comes after several crackdowns in other states.
Matthew Albence, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's acting director, told The Associated Press that the raids could be the largest such operation thus far in any single state.
In an emailed statement Wednesday morning, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations special agents are executing federal search warrants today at multiple locations across the state of Mississippi as part of a coordinated operation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi pursuant to ongoing HSI administrative and criminal investigations.”
In a second statement, Hurst said via email, "The execution of federal search warrants today was simply about enforcing the rule of law in our state and throughout our great country."
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Bryan Cox, ICE spokesperson, said everyone taken into custody and detained Wednesday will be processed but "not everyone is going to be (permanently) detained."
"You are going to have persons released," he said. "ICE makes custody determination on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of their circumstances."
The names of the plants have not been publicly released by ICE officials. However, reporters were on scene at the Koch Foods processing plant in Morton. Another included the Peco Chicken Processing Plant in Canton.
In an emailed statement, Peco Foods confirmed raids took place at three of their facilities – Canton, Bay Springs and Sebastopol. The company is "fully cooperating" with authorities, the statement read.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba in a statement called the U.S. immigration raids Wednesday "dehumanizing and ineffective."
The mayor then called on "faith institutions" in the community to become sanctuaries for "our immigrant neighbors."
In his statement, Lumumba said the raids "will only further alienate communities from law enforcement."
However, Councilman Ashby Foote disagreed with the mayor and said calling on churches in the community to act on his behalf was misguided.
"I think the mayor's statement was a mistake. We're a nation of laws and when you don't have laws, you have chaos," he said.
The crackdown on immigration in Mississippi comes on top of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where the gunman appears to have specifically targeted immigrants. The shooting has had a chilling effect on immigrants in the metro Jackson area.
"This is precisely why they fled their home countries – because they were targeted for who they are ... for people who have suffered tremendous violence or threats for who they are, I imagine this is very terrifying," said Amelia McGowan, an immigration attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice.
Contributing: Justin Vicory, (Jackson) Clarion Ledger.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: ICE raids: 300 of 680 arrested at Mississippi plants were released