In the spring and summer of 2018, a series of large-scale worksite raids struck immigrant and mixed-status communities throughout the rural heartland of the United States. These raids, which targeted immigrant workers in rural agricultural, food processing and manufacturing worksites in six different communities, resulted in over 600 arrests.

Large-scale raids are unannounced, surreptitious and violent. Workers, families, and communities often experience raids as chaotic disasters and isolated events. In the days that follow, media descends and reports on terrorized and separated families. But the harms of raids extend for months and years, and the chaos experienced by each rural community often follows a predictable trajectory.

This project brings together interviews from people living in these communities, focus groups with student researchers who conducted and coded the interviews, and art from young artists to provide a fuller picture of enduring and traumatic impacts of large-scale immigration worksite raids in rural America.

Artist statement by Carolina Jones: 
During a lot of the meetings I had while creating the images for the “Ice in The Heartland” project, I was often urged to capture the “blue midwestern skies” of the areas where the events took place. The communities impacted by ICE raids are forever changed, but I wanted to pay tribute to what stayed constant, what could always be pointed to as a sign of “home.” In each state I provide a skyline and a darkened silhouette with some subtle nods of where some of the raids took place: Bean Station’s slaughterhouse, the powerlines in Sandusky, Ohio, etc.


Artist: Carolina Jones

Raids sow chaos in communities and require surprise and deception to function.

 Immigration raids are—by design—conducted without warning in order to detain community members quickly and efficiently while they are clustered closely in a single location. Information about raids is often incomplete, and spreads haphazardly through text, email, social media, TV, and radio in multiple languages. Rumors spread quickly, and it is never clear where the enforcement is taking place, how long it will last, or if it will extend to other locations.  

Not only are raids chaotic, they often involve trickery and deception. In Sandusky, OH, for example, agents offered donuts to employees in the break room before surrounding and arresting them. 

Artist’s Statement by Carolina Jones:
In 2018, Corso’s workers were lured into their breakroom by undercover agents offering them donuts, where they were soon rounded up and arrested in zip ties. For this illustration, we liked to play with the deceiving nature of the bait used by ICE officers. In the center stage we find the box with an assortment of donuts and zip-ties, and in the backdrop we find everyday objects that serve as warning signs that something is off. From the “waiting for you” sign to the mysterious sign-up sheet, we see how a common workplace can be transformed from a place of trust to a site of trauma. The orange and pink stripes on the donut box are a nod to Dunkin’ Donuts, which was the brand actually used on the raid. Similarly, the colors in the coffee cup are in reference to 7Eleven, a major target of nationwide ICE Raids in 2018.

Public Health Implications: 
Raids are conglomerations of all the worst aspects of immigration enforcement, including racial profiling, militarization, and surreptitiousness. They also frequently involve collaboration with other government entities, like the police. This breeds distrust in law enforcement of all types, and engenders suspicion of government entities. 

Voices on the Ground:
“We really did not know what was going on, but I’ll tell you, social media was on fire. There were so many people who were there, so many people who were at the armory, and they were using Facebook Live a lot and the news was covering it, so we kind of got to watch firsthand what was going on. It didn’t really make a lot of sense. We really could not figure out totally what was happening.” -”Cathy”, TN, white woman, 50s

“Me llamó por teléfono y me dijo,”Don David,” así me dice…”está pasando algo aquí.  Hay muchos carros de policía.  La gente está nerviosa.”  Inclusiva me dice que han visto un helicóptero, un helicóptero en Mount Pleasant? Eso es… rarisimo.  Entonces, le pedí que me mantenga al tanto y al cabo de una hora, pues, me dio a la noticia que había ocurrido una redada, en la planta de concreto de aquí de Mount Pleasant.  Entonces, se tratado más o menos…ni siquiera de una intervención policías sino que parecía una cosa militar, un invasión para decirla.  Ya por la cantidad de policías y el movimiento y cerraron calles y, bueno.  Fue una cosa que causó mucho temor en la comunidad. .” — “Diego”, IA, Latino man, 50s.

“He called me on the phone and said, “Don David,” that’s what he calls me… “something is happening here. There are many police cars. People are nervous.” He even tells me that they have seen a helicopter, a helicopter in Mount Pleasant? That’s… very rare. So I asked him to keep me posted and after an hour, well, he broke the news that there had been a raid on the concrete plant here in Mount Pleasant. So, it was more or less … not even a police intervention but it seemed like a military thing, you could say an invasion. Because of the amount of police and the movement and they closed streets and, well. It was something that caused a lot of fear in the community.”– “Diego”, IA, Latino man, 50s.


Artist: Carolina Jones

Raids are rooted in racism and racial profiling, and impact women and men in different ways.

Immigration enforcement has a long and racist history. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to country-of-origin quotas to Operation Wetback, immigration enforcement has always been a way for the US government to influence the racial makeup of the U.S. During the Trump administration, the rhetoric used to vilify immigrants of color–specifically those from Mexico and Central American–was significantly amped up, and comparisons to gang members and dangerous narcotraficantes were common. 

This racism is often apparent in immigration raids, in which workers are frequently divided up by color, with the Latino-appearing workers interrogated, and white workers ignored. 

Raids may also impact men and women differently. When men, who are often the primary providers of families, are taken, mothers are left to care for children and find alternative sources of income, all while coping with their own mental and emotional challenges. Detained mothers have exceptionally more difficulty finding appropriate healthcare, especially if they are pregnant or nursing. 

Artist statement by Carolina Jones:
In April 5th, 2018, ICE arrested 97 undocumented immigrants at their workplace without asking for their immigration status first. 7 of those arrested sued ICE claiming to be racially profiled by the agency. White employees at the slaughterhouse where the raid took place were allowed to have a smoke while their Latinx co-workers were rounded up. I created this illustration hoping to convey the apathy and complicit behavior that bystanders engaged with in the face of injustice. I also wished to highlight how indifference is a tool of white supremacy.

Public health implications: 
Race-based fear mongering and stereotyping stokes interpersonal racism and is used to justify institutional racism. Reams of research show that interpersonal racism–or racist behaviors directed at another individual because of the color of their skin–shortens lifespan and increases the physiological stress response, leading to a host of other negative physical and mental health outcomes. Institutional racism–or the systemic disadvantage of communities because of their race–results in a lack of employment and educational opportunities, or in the case of the policing system, a higher likelihood of experiencing violence or being killed. Racism in the immigration system results in the perpetual disadvantage of immigrant communities of color by engendering increases in interpersonal racism, targeting immigrants of color for deportation, and removing opportunity for upward mobility. 

The detention of women also limits their access to appropriate medical care, care that is especially needed during pregnancy or breastfeeding. As many women in immigrant communities are also the caretakers of children, their detention requires that families re-organize themselves in their absence.

Voices on the Ground:
Estábamos trabajando bien a gusto. Nunca había visto yo gente así uniformado de policías. Pues entró alguien donde estábamos yo y la nuera, y otros trabajando en la línea. Y entraba y nos dijo la policía que fuéramos, que fuéramos. Yo no soy ciudadana, igual con mi nuera. Y yo pregunté, “¿qué?” y ella dice “la migra.” En el momento, pues, todos nos llevaron, verdad?… allí mismo en el comedor. Pues todos …con, con, los de inmigración y todo, y ya nos dijeron, “los que son ciudadanos, que son residentes, que se apartaron de allá.” Yo soy residente. Pues se aparta uno, pero a ver todas las caras de las personas y otros que todos estamos aquí por necesidad? No venimos a rogar, no venimos…nada. Simplemente nos venimos a trabajar. — “Yelba”, NE, Latina woman, 40s. 

We were working, just like always. I had never seen people like this in police uniforms. Well, someone came in where we were working on the line, me and my daughter-in-law and others. And the police officer told us to go, to go. I am not a citizen, the same with my daughter-in-law. And I asked, “what?” and she says “it’s immigration.” And at first they took all of us, right?… Right there in the dining room. Well, everyone … with, with, the immigration agents and everything, and they said, “those who are citizens, who are residents, go over there.” I am a resident. So I moved, but to see all the faces of the people that we are all here out of necessity? We don’t come to beg, we don’t come to do anything. We just come to work.”– “Yelba”, NE, Latina woman, 40s. 


Artist: Dalia Harris

Raids result in large scale family separation.

After arrests at the worksite, detained workers are usually transported to county jails or ICE detention centers far from their home communities. Families back at home are not notified about the location of their loved one, and it can take hours or even days to figure out where a loved one has been taken. In some cases, arrested workers are processed and released with an order to appear in court on a certain date, or released with ankle monitors so that ICE can track their location. While a release from detention is certainly preferable–and significantly increases the chances that you can win your legal case–driving back and forth to ICE offices carries its own expense and risk.

After the ICE raids in O’Neill, NE, arrested workers were transported two hours away to a makeshift processing tent in Grand Island, Nebraska. Families and advocates gathered outside the tent strived to communicate with loved ones inside.

Artists’ Statement by Dalia Harris: 
For this piece, I wanted to capture the bittersweet moment that was described to me as relief of finding your loved one, yet uncertainty of not knowing where they might go.

Public Health Implications: 
Detention is expensive. Families must often pull together thousands of dollars to pay legal fees and bonds. Because work raids often result in the detainment of the primary economic provider, other members of the family must begin to work. Even when individuals are released from detention, they are still unable to work.  Families must often choose whether to buy food, medicine, and diapers, or pay the rent and utility bills, or use the money for detention-related expenses. 

Driving to and from detention centers and ICE facilities further drains familial and community resources. Because those detained often do not have driver’s licenses, they may rely on friends and family to drive them, or pay someone to drive them. In communities in which most individuals have hourly-wage employment, this extends and exacerbates the sudden poverty experienced after raids. 

Voices from the Ground:
“So myself and the other organizer we suggested “Hey, can we please pay bonds?” So [our organization] started paying bonds for these people and people started being released. And the people that started being released, once they were released, we were organizing buses from here, Dallas, we were organizing buses to come straight back to Paris, Texas so they could consult with our attorneys. The thing that sucked the most is that several of these people were taken everywhere. They were taken to El Dorado, Texas, they were taken to here in the ICE holding facility, they were taken to two detention centers in Oklahoma and several to Louisiana. So we didn’t get a chance to help everybody. “ –Jaime, Latino, 20s, Texas


Artist: Carolina Jones

Raids cause enduring and constant worry.

While a raid may just last one day, the damaging effects of the raid linger in communities for weeks or even months after. In immigration work raids, dozens to hundreds of community members are removed, so everyone knows someone who was detained. If  your loved one wasn’t removed, you are thankful, knowing that, had circumstances been just a little bit different, it could have been your mom, dad, aunt, or uncle who was detained. While raids are unlikely to happen in any one particular community, the feeling that they could happen on any day of the year makes community members continually cautious, always looking back over their shoulders as they ask themselves, could today be the day that my family is broken apart?

In Sandusky, OH, a mother described seeing an ICE bus go through town while she was taking her young daughter out for ice cream. She didn’t know what was going to happen, but she sensed it was going to get worse. 

Artist’s Statement by Carolina Jones:

Inspired by the 2018 “Corso’s Flower & Garden Center” raid in Sandusky, Ohio, this piece illustrates Corso’s manager getting ice cream with her daughter a day before the raid. Covered by a blue Midwestern sky, the image depicts the calm before the storm. The scene guides us through a cycle of concern: while the mother faces the ICE bus, her daughter faces her, looking for an indication of whether to feel safe or anxious.

Public health implication: 
Hypervigilance–or the constant awareness and monitoring of one’s surroundings for threat–is a physically strenuous process, releasing cascades of hormones and glucose into the bloodstream. While stress is normal in moderation, feeling chronically fearful and anxious can take a toll on the immune and endocrine systems and build up over time to increase risk of chronic diseases and poor mental health.

Voices from the Ground:
“Siempre estamos atentos a todo; ahora más que nunca.”
“We’re always paying attention to everything, now more than ever.”
-Juana, Mt. Pleasant, Latina, 30s

“The older kids, the junior high, high school kids, became very closed. Like we will invite them, even now, if we invite them for field trips, they don’t want to let go of their parents because they’re afraid that if they go for more than one day, they’re not going to be back. 
Just a couple of weeks ago, I tried to convince this kid, we were going to go take them to Washington, D.C. for a field trip. And he was very excited last year that he was going to be able to go this year. Because last year he didn’t qualify. But this year he would. But he wouldn’t. He said that he was afraid that something might have happened, and he didn’t want to go.”
-Veronica, O’Neill Nebraska, Latina, 40s

“We were supposed to then drive to Knoxville or the parents or the god, or whatever, the sponsors would drive, everybody would drive to Knoxville for the confirmations. Now, nobody wanted to drive to Knoxville. Most of my young people. Most of those being confirmed were Hispanic. Word got around very quickly and then got to me through the director of religious education. The kids don’t want to go to Knoxville for confirmation, because they don’t want to put their parents in a situation where they might be detained and then the kids might lose them because they were taking their child to the cathedral for confirmation.”
Jim, clergy, Bean Station, White, 40s

“Sí y hasta hoy en día la comunidad hispana todo el tiempo viven en miedo. No hay una tranquilidad. Yo también lo viví. Cuando nosotros vemos noticias de las redadas, sabiendo que uno de tus familiares no tiene un proceso con inmigración, eso afecta muchísimo y bastante. Porque viendo a las familias llorando solo por televisión ya uno está pensando.. que eso va a pasar. Desde antes de la redada el miedo ya era mucho.”

“Yes and to this day the Hispanic community lives in fear all the time. There is no peace. I lived it too. When we see news of the raids, knowing that one of your relatives does not have immigration status, that affects us deeply. Because seeing families crying only on television, one is already thinking … that this is going to happen. Even before the raid there was already so much fear. “
Joaquin, Salem, OH, Latino, 20s

“So when we went to one of the churches there were wall-to-wall people who were fearful of leaving the church. They thought ICE was still in the community. So in the church there was a large open room and I don’t think there was any space along the wall because there was a person standing in every space. And then the room was full of people as well, many of them fearful of just leaving the church.”
Diane, O’Neill Nebraska, White, 30s


Artist: Dalia Harris

Raids force people into hiding.

Immigration raids sow fear throughout communities, causing people to confine themselves to their homes and to avoid public space and social service organizations to avoid deportation. Raids often involve collaboration with other government organizations, like the police, and it is impossible to know when immigration enforcement activities are completed. 

In the aftermath of raids, it becomes unclear where you can go, which roads you can drive on, which sidewalks you can walk on, which stores you want to shop at, and which organizations have your best interests in mind. Sometimes, locking the doors, shuttering the blinds, and refusing to leave one’s home feels like the safest option. 

Artist’s Statement by Dalia Harris: 
For me, a large emphasis was placed on how this community was once lively and bustling with families, so much so that the empty streets after the ICE raid were off-putting. The images are supposed to exemplify such drastic change – beginning with the boy surrounded by friends and family, and ending with nothing but the ball the boy once played with.

Public health implications: 
Communities can’t stay healthy when community members are unable to visit their friends and family, move about public space, or trust the agencies who are supposed to serve them. Research shows that the hypervigilance that comes with fear of arrest has direct psychological and physiological impacts on health, and further contributes to avoidance of health care services.  

Voices from the Ground:
“You’d go to the trailer parks or you go by houses where you know people live and they’re like, there’s nobody there. Trailer parks were empty, you didn’t see kids playing outside, you didn’t see any life around the trailers, door were locked, closed, windows are closed, curtains are drawn, there’s just no sign of anybody living there.”
Yvonne, O’Neill NE, Latina, 50s

“Así que, a partir de ese dia, yo creo que todo cambio en este pueblo. Todo cambio. Se mira la soledad. Si tu preguntas “donde esta X persona que fue arrestada” todos estan por ningun lado. Todos tenemos eventos, todos estábamos ahí, que una fiestita familiar invitamos todos y todos estabamos ahi. Ahora, donde estan?”
-Juana, Mt. Pleasant, Latina, 30s

“So, from that day on, I think everything changed in this town. Everything changed. You see the loneliness. If you ask, “where is X person who was arrested?”, nobody is anywhere. We used to have events, and we’d all be there, a little family party and we’d invite everyone and everyone would come. Now, where are they?”
-Juana, Mt. Pleasant, Latina, 30s

“Los efectos, pues, todo serio allí, las tiendas vacías. No van a la tienda, no igual que antes. Más gente que se rellena las tiendas, la comida mexicana. Todo, todo así, triste. Mucho, mucho, muy diferente.”
-Yelba, O’Neill, NE, Latina/Latino, 40s

“The effects, then, everything is serious there, the stores are empty. People don’t go to the store, not tlike before. More people filling the stores, the Mexican food. Everything, everything is sad like that. It’s very different.”
-Yelba, O’Neill, NE, Latina/Latino, 40s