A series of immigration raids at poultry processing plants across the southeastern United States created more than job vacancies. Hundreds of children were separated from their parents. While leaders sort out the legal situation, communities are offering support to those left behind. Heidi Robinson reports.
(Locator: Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Mariela graduates from high school this month. Like many seniors, she has an assignment to finish.
"I’m doing a project about an eco-friendly home."
It’s hardly her most challenging project.
(Video Courtesy: WTVC)
The aftershocks of an immigration raid at this poultry processing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee have given Mariela a crash course in responsibility.
Before and after school, this teenager now cooks, cleans and cries for her three young sisters. Their mother awaits deportation to Guatemala and may not be allowed back in the U.S.
Mariela: "I’m getting kind of sleepy at school but I just pray to God to help me support all this."
Volunteer: "We are trying very hard to learn where are the people getting held."
(St. Andrews Center)
Almost 300 people impacted or frightened by the raid pack the basement of the St. Andrews Center, an outreach of the United Methodist Church.
Eight attorneys and immigration specialists, with interpreters, help families sort complex questions regarding husbands, mothers and children. Some have taken in children from families affected by the immigration raid, creating a ripple effect.
The Rev. Mike Feely, St. Andrews Center:
"One single mom, she picked up three from next door cause she knew they’d come home and there would be no one at home. So that’s one of the ways we’ve been trying to help families, where somebody is feeding eight people for dinner instead of two."
Help that is desperately needed…
Mariela to sisters:
"It’s time to go to sleep..."
…as families cope with the trauma of losing a parent.
"It’s a hurt in your heart. You wish that your mom was here with you."
And, Mariela knows that is not likely to happen. A prolonged separation from her mother seems inevitable.
Mariela to sisters: "‘Let’s go up the stairs.’ Only God can do something about it."
The St. Andrews Center partners with volunteers from La Paz de Dios. The advocates say immigrant families often face complex legal questions because families can have both documented and undocumented members.
If you would like more information about the help made available by the Saint Andrews Center, their Web site is www.st-andrewscenter.org or you can call 423-629-9872.
Also, see: Churches help families left behind after raids
Posted: May 14, 2008