Jessica Bailiff looked out at her class and saw empty desks where her students were supposed to be.
The physics teacher's heart sank. She knew why they weren't there.
The day before,federal authorities had swept through a nearby meatpacking plant, rounding up nearly 100 people they accused of being in the United States illegally.
Immigrant rights groups say last week's operation in eastern Tennessee was the largest workplace immigration raid in a decade.
More than 500 students stayed home from school the next day.
Now, a week later, most are back in class. But the community is still reeling, Bailiff says.
Kids who are supposed to be learning about light waves, radio waves and the electromagnetic spectrum, she says, are instead wondering if they'll ever see their loved ones again.
"There's just fear and sadness written all over their faces," Bailiff says.
In a just society, no kid goes to bed afraid that their parents are going to be hauled away by the government.
This hits home to me. I was raised by a single mother who worked in a meatpacking plant. If she hadn't worked there, we would not have had a home or anything else. This is a very real struggle for survival, and I don't give two shits for any argument that says that these people have to follow "the law."
You know who isn't following the law? The goddamned meatpacking industry operates, for all intents and purposes, without serious regulation. Safety is a joke. Wages are a crime. Standards are whatever a GOP-controlled state legislature can pass into law, courtesy of some sleazy lobbyist.
The overall working experience is so bad that working class white people won't take the jobs that are available. The work has to get done, so the owners exploit people who are trying to get a foot in the door in this country. This is happening everywhere and has been going on for decades. The law means nothing if you're a plant owner who wants to pay people $9 an hour to render hogs into bacon, unless it is used to keep workers terrified of unionizing and striking to improve their conditions.
So, fuck all this. ICE is straight up terrorizing people who are on the margins. Instead of sending 100 ICE agents to round up the poor, send four FBI agents into the office of the big boss and have a conversation about running roughshod over every existing labor regulation and every business rule on the books. Better yet, let's put the blame where it belongs--on anyone who has normalized the terrorization of people who are trying to come here and make a better life for their families.