In the hours after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided several workplaces in Nebraska, including a hydroponic tomato plant, farms, and restaurants, more than a dozen children sat together in a public elementary school as teachers and administrators tried to distract them from the chaotic scenes outside and their fears over what had become of their parents.
Teachers and administrators had been in a meeting Wednesday morning when panicked phone calls and text messages streamed in informing them that ICE was in their rural town of O’Neill, made up of around 3,700 people, arresting workers. They decided to open up the only public elementary school, which was closed for summer break, for those children who would need support.
Soon the teachers were caring for children as young as four months and as old as high school age. The teachers assumed that the children had parents who worked in the facilities and had been picked up in the raids.
Some of the older children sat sobbing silently. They’d received phone calls from community members informing them that their parents had indeed been picked up by ICE. The teachers took them aside to talk through their worries.
The younger children cried too, but teachers and administrators made sandwiches for them, brought out toys, played with Play-Doh, and tried to distract them as best they could without knowing where their parents were. They opened pack-and-play sets for babies to sleep.
The 4-month-old, who had been dropped off at the school by her babysitter, was breast fed by her mother. Teachers obtained a bottle and formula to feed her.
O’Neill was a main target of the operation in which ICE agents served search and arrest warrants for 17 individuals in multiple states who allegedly were connected to a “criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.” During the course of the raid, ICE picked up 133 suspected undocumented workers on immigration violations, part of a larger shift by the Trump administration to crack down on workplace violations.
On the other hand, Donald Trump won Holt County, of which O’Neill is the county seat, by a mere 75 points. It was 85-10. So I’m not feeling real charitable. But hey, there’s no room for those scary Mexicans right? After all, Holt County has fewer people than it did in 1890.