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Immigration Lawyer Discusses Working With Families In Mississippi After ICE Raids

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to someone who's been working with some of the families affected by the ICE raids, Marshall Goff. He's an immigration lawyer based in Jackson, Miss. It's the closest big city to where the raids happened. And he described what the last 24 hours in his area have been like.

MARSHALL GOFF: These people were working at food processing plants in rural areas, and ICE agents came in yesterday along with Homeland Security agents. And from what I've heard, there were helicopters overhead. And there were a large number of agents that came in and started rounding people up, and things sort of escalated from there.

And then we were inundated with phone calls from family members, from children who were translating for family members, from people that were wondering if their loved ones were caught up in some of these raids. And we've really had that same thing continue to happen into today. It happened last night. We have a 24-hour emergency cellphone line that was ringing off the hook for most of the night last night.

CORNISH: When you say you got calls from children, some translating for relatives, what did that call sound like? What kinds of questions were you getting?

GOFF: Really just where their family members are. A lot of people were confused about what the process is now because their family members were zip-tied and - or led onto buses and then they were just gone. So it was questions like, where are they now? What will happen next? Will they be deported immediately? Just basically - who, what, when, where, how and why.

CORNISH: So I understand you're about to head out soon to actually meet with some of the affected families. What's your plan for them?

GOFF: So we're going to be handing out coloring books and teddy bears to kids. We're going to be handing out water, snacks different things to families that have been affected by this. And we're just going to be offering a lending hand to these people and being there supporting them. And if they want advice or counsel about what the next steps are or what the process will look like for their family members, we're going to be there for them and meet them where they are.

CORNISH: Can you give us an example or tell us the story of one of the families that you're having to help now?

GOFF: Sure. We heard from a family member of someone who was picked up yesterday. And this family member was concerned because the person that was detained has diabetes, and they need insulin. So we've been in contact with ICE to locate this person to ensure that their needs are met from a medical perspective. But we've been hearing from moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins, children. It really runs the gamut. You know, the ripple effects from this can't be overstated.

CORNISH: Last night, some of the detainees were released. What have we learned about who they are?

GOFF: The distinction last night was people that have children that don't have anyone to care for them. Maybe it was a single mom or a single parent that didn't have other family members in the area. And apparently, Homeland Security Investigations made cellphones available to them to try and facilitate them making sure that their children were taken care of.

CORNISH: What kinds of charges are these people facing?

GOFF: A lot of these people are going to be facing charges based on the fact that they were an alien present in the U.S. who was never admitted or paroled into the U.S. or they were legally admitted or paroled into the U.S. but maybe overstayed their visas or committed a crime which could make them removable. So those are the things that we're going to be looking for on their notice to appear to make sure that it has everything that it needs is Jackson's legal community prepared for this.

CORNISH: I don't know how many immigration lawyers are down there, but we often hear about a backlog in the courts.

GOFF: There's not many immigration lawyers in Mississippi. We don't actually have an immigration court in Mississippi. The closest courts are in Memphis and New Orleans, and Jackson is sort of the dividing line between the two. But I've been really lucky to be a part of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. We have a subgroup, the Midsouth group, who right now are coordinating efforts for pro bono lawyers to do remote consultations and get information to people where it's needed the most. And that has been really, really inspiring to see people from all over the country reach out and asking how they can help.

CORNISH: Marshall Goff is a lawyer with the Mississippi law firm Chhabra & Gibbs.

Thank you for explaining it to us.

GOFF: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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