Cynthia was among the nearly 700 undocumented workers arrested in the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at seven food processing plants in six cities. She said she was released overnight in another city almost an hour from her home in Morton, where two of the plants are located.
She declined to give her last name because of her legal status. Her 12-year-old daughter was seen in a video on Facebook begging an ICE official to let her see her mother.
Cynthia has thought about going back to to Guatemala but she probably won’t because her daughter is a US citizen and getting an education here, she said.
Cynthia, who worked at Koch Foods in Morton, said many of the people detained had small children or babies. The raids traumatized everyone, including her daughter, she said.
Cynthia recalled seeing dozens of buses waiting at a airport hangar that was used as a makeshift processing center at a National Guard base. She said she believes ICE agents divided the people into groups: Those with final deportation orders and those with criminal records. She was put into a third group, she said.
More than 300 migrants who were arrested were released, Bryan D. Cox, an ICE spokesman, said in a statement on Thursday. At least 377 migrants remained in custody, Jere Miles, the special agent in charge for the Department of Homeland Security said.
The undocumented immigrants who were arrested were interviewed by ICE staff to “record any potential mitigating humanitarian situations to include adults who may have children at home or school,” ICE said in a statement on Twitter.
ICE determined who would be detained or released from custody on a case-by-case basis, officials said. Migrants were placed in removal proceedings before federal immigration courts. Those who had been previously ordered removed were processed for removal, ICE said.
Cynthia said ICE agents said she could go home because she was her daughter’s caretaker. She was given a date to appear in court next January, she said.
Cynthia said she isn’t a criminal. A single mom, she has lived in the United States for more than a dozen years working and raising her family, she said.
She hasn’t slept in two days and will not be returning to work at the plant because officials kept her company ID.
She is afraid, she said. But she is grateful for how kind an ICE officer was to her daughter. In the Facebook video, an officer can be seen walking her to the bus to see Cynthia and telling her that her mom wasn’t going to be deported.
“He was so patient,” said Cynthia.
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher reported and wrote from Mississippi. Hollie Silverman and Darran Simon In Atlanta contributed to this report.