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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

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.

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

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.

Submitted Photo

A collage of Griselda Salas with her son, 11-year-old Justin Alexander Armenta. Salas was detained at Koch Foods Inc.

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Maria Armenta Pita now takes care of her nephew Justin Alexander Armenta, 11.

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

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

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

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.

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

An American flag and a Mexican flag hang on neighboring home in Morton.

 

View the complete photo gallery here.