Support for Immigrant Families in Mississippi
On August 7, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security officers raided seven food processing plants in central Mississippi and detained 680 workers in what was the middle of a work day and the first day of school for most children. Since then, about 300 people were released but remain unemployed and more than half still remain detained by ICE. Students in the MPH in Maternal and Child Health program at the UIC School of Public Health coordinated a donation drive to support the children and families of those affected by the raids.
After hearing about the raid, Kimberly Silva, MPH in Maternal and Child Health student, decided to contact the local organization Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA) to ask how she could support the work they were doing to help families impacted by the raids. Kim learned that there was a huge need for donations and monetary support, so she began collecting items from her parents’ church, and after seeing the immense response from people wanting to donate, she reached out to the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health at the School of Public Health to see if this effort could be spread throughout the School and the UIC campus. This led to many people from the UIC community donating food, everyday use items and money to MIRA. The support was so great that students, Kim and Gabrielle Lodge, MPH in Maternal and Child Health student, volunteered to drive down to Mississippi and deliver all donations over Labor Day Weekend, where they met with MIRA’s organizer, Luis Espinoza. Donations went to St. Ann church in Carthage, MS and St. Michael church in Forest, MS. Both churches have served as donation distribution centers and food pantries for immigrant families in need.
"Not only are they places of worship, but a place for people to receive necessary support whether that is emotional support, financial support," Lodge said. "This trip was a reminder of the importance of public health institutions to collaborate with religious institutions for the betterment of community health."
"I learned that people want to help," Silva said. "A lot of times, it’s a matter of asking how to do so and giving folks an outlet to give that support. Once I started asking around, the support that came in was overwhelming in the best way. We witness a lot of injustices happening every day and it breaks our hearts and injures our morale. This donation drive helped remind me that collaborative effort matters and people caring about other people matters. It felt good to know that solidarity exists even in the worst times."
Students with one of the church's leaders
Kim and Gabby with Father Roberto from St. Michael Church in Forest, MS. Fr. Roberto leads two parishes and has been very active in the response to the immigration crisis in Mississippi.
Picture with volunteers
Kim and Gabby with volunteers at St. Ann’s Church.