Laurel: A Humanitarian Disaster

Yesterday, a powerful editorial Gabino Zavala, bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, appeared in the UK's Guardian.

The dramatic scale and human cost of the raid strain credulity. Five-hundred ninety-five workers arrested. Four-hundred seventy-five immediately transferred to a holding facility to the infamous town of Jena, Louisiana, proving once again that irony is not dead. Nine workers under the age of 18 transferred to the custody of the federal office of refugee resettlement, supposedly to Miami, Florida, although information is sketchy.

Those 595 workers leave behind almost 300 children under the age of five and 187 school-age children to be cared for by someone, anyone - who, exactly? Clearly, in the mind of ICE, the almost 500 children left fatherless, motherless, auntless, uncless or just plain parentless are collateral damage in the war for who can be "toughest" on the immigration issue. Eight workers detained on aggravated identify-theft violations, one of whom is pregnant. ICE officials promise due process and respect for the rights of the accused, but given the mass criminal trials held on the grounds of the Cattle Congress in Iowa - like a twisted version of a cultish mass wedding - advocates and workers alike have good reason to be suspicious.

Numbers alone do not accurately convey the scope of this disaster and the flawed, draconian actions that precipitated it. Whole neighbourhoods are emptied of inhabitants, whether those detained by raid or those who have fled to local churches in fear. "Cars are being broken into, houses are empty, kids want to know where their parents are," says Marie Thompson, director of Mississippi Poultry Workers for Empowerment and Respect (Mpower). "It's a humanitarian disaster."

It is time for those who care about workers rights and human dignity to declare: no more Postvilles, no more Laurels, no more humanitarian disasters created by a flawed immigration policy. The children of central Mississippi and Postville deserve no less.

To help the victims of the Raid in Mississippi:

PLEASE SEND THE FOLLOWING ITEMS OR MONETARY DONATIONS TO: Sacred Heart Catholic Church Father Ken Ramon-Landry 313 Walnut Hattiesburg, MS. 39401

List of items needed NOW: - Diapers from size 1 to size 5, size 3 & 4 are the most requested. - Non-Perishable food items for the Hispanic food palette - Paper products - Over the counter basic medicine; Tylenol for both children & adults, etc. - Monetary donations to cover rent, utilities, food and health expenses - Phone cards to call international : Mexico, Panama, Honduras, the Caribbean Island nations, south America. - Gas cards

Other community needs: (these needs need to be coordinated with the churches) - Volunteers to help in the coming weeks - Medical & Mental Health folks - Translators - Transportation needs - Money to pay legal fees - Money to help those families with American children get passports - Money to sustain those families while they wait