Support for Immigrant Families in Mississippi

Authors: Kimberly Silva, MPH(c) Community Health Sciences, Maternal and Child Health & Gabrielle Lodge, MPH(c) Community Health Sciences, Maternal and Child Health

Truck full of donations from the UIC students, faculty and staff

What Happened?
On August 7, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security officers raided 7 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 over half still remain detained by ICE.

Labor Day Weekend Drive to Mississippi
After hearing about the raid, 2nd year MPH MCH trainee, Kim Silva, 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. Kim began collecting items from her parents’ church and after seeing the immense response from people wanting to donate, she reached out to CoE in MCH to see if this effort could be spread throughout the UIC School of Public Health 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, 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.

Kim Silva and Gabby Lodge drop off donations at St. Ann’s Church in Forest, MS.

What We Learned from the Trip
Kim: I learned that people WANT to help. 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.

Gabby: I learned the significance of religious institutions, like churches, mosques, and temples, with community health. Not only are they places of worship, but a place for people to receive necessary support whether that is emotional support, financial support, etc. This trip was a reminder of the importance of public health institutions to collaborate with religious institutions for the betterment of community health.

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.

 
How You Can Help!
Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance is a community-based organization that provides public education and legal advocacy. Donating to MIRA will support their efforts to recover stolen wages for immigrant workers, fight police harassment and discrimination, educate communities about immigrant rights, and make sure marginalized voices are heard in the legislative processes (MIRA).

 

Kim and Gabby with volunteers at St. Ann’s Church

 

Special thanks to:
Cindy San Miguel, Arden Handler, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for helping organize this effort.
Amanda Goldstein for creating our flyer.
Melissa Martinez at IHRP for letting us use your office as a Drop-off location.
UI Cancer Center for letting us use your space as a Drop-off location.
Churches House on the Rock and Elim for collecting donations.
To everyone who donated goods, money, time and effort.

 

References:
Mississippi Immigration Rights Alliance (MIRA). (N.D.). The worst ICE raid in our history. Retrieved from
https://yourmira.wpcomstaging.com/2019/08/13/august-2019-raids/