Justin Alexander Armenta, 11, who has autism, sat at a booth with his cousin Joshua playing video games. His aunt, Maria Armenta Pita, sat at a nearby table in the empty restaurant where she works in Morton, Mississippi. Justin’s mother was detained in the ICE raid that took place at Koch Foods Inc. on Aug. 7. Pita has taken on the responsibility of taking care of him while his father works extra hours to support the family.
As she talked about the detainment of Justin’s mother, Griselda Salas, Pita cried and pleaded. “She has done nothing wrong! … She doesn’t have a record!” Pita also has a nephew who was detained during the raid. She said she’s overwhelmed with emotion when she sees Salas’ 1-year-old daughter crying as she looks around the house for her mother. “She’s just a baby,” Pita said.
In addition to taking care of her own 3-year-old child and Salas’ daughter, Pita takes Justin to and from school, helps with is homework and cooks for him.
Salas was granted a $10,000 unsecured bond on Sept. 3. Now, the family has to wait and see if she will be moved from Madison to a facility in Louisiana for an immigration bond.
Several families and communities have been affected by what authorities are calling one of the largest single state immigration enforcement operations in history, where 680 workers were detained at multiple food processing plants in Mississippi. Many remain in custody. These photographs by photojournalist Eric J. Shelton tell some of their stories as Mississippi Today continues its coverage of the early August raids.
Eric J. Shelton is a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018.