Maria Armenta Pita now takes care of her nephew Justin Alexander Armenta, 11, after the mother of her brother’s child, Griselda Salas, was detained during the Aug. 7 raids in Morton, Mississippi. Her nephew also is dealing with Autism.
Story and Photos by Eric J. Shelton | September 18, 2019
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.
Justin Alexander Armenta, right, sits with his cousin Joshua Molina at Betty’s Mexican Food in Morton, Miss., Thursday, August 29, 2019. Justin, who has autism, is being cared for by his aunt after his mother was detained during the Aug. 7 ICE raids.
A collage of Griselda Salas with her son, 11-year-old Justin Alexander Armenta. Salas was detained at Koch Foods Inc.
Maria Armenta Pita now takes care of her nephew Justin Alexander Armenta, 11.
Doroteo Lopez holds his 5-year-old son Lesvi Lopez during the Poor People’s Campaign’s Everybody’s Got a Right to Live” mass moral meeting Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Canton, Miss., Thursday, August 29, 2019.

“I want my wife back.”

– Doroteo Lopez

Community organizer Nayely Perez, of SEIRN, left, gives Doroteo Lopez community resources during the Poor People’s Campaign’s Everybody’s Got a Right to Live” mass moral meeting Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Canton, Miss., Thursday, August 29, 2019. Lopez’s wife was detained at Peco Foods Inc. during the August 7th ICE raids.
An American flag and a Mexican flag hang on neighboring home in Morton.
 

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Eric J. Shelton

Eric J. Shelton

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.