Recently retired federal prosecutor set to fight against former boss on Mississippi immigration raids

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A former federal prosecutor who lives in Mississippi says she’s volunteering her time to provide legal services to immigrants arrested in raids at several Mississippi poultry processing plants earlier this month.

Cindy Eldridge, who retired earlier this year after a career in putting away criminals in U.S. District Court, publicly announced her pro bono legal work on social media Tuesday. Her work effectively pits her against her former boss, U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst.

“The way we treat law-abiding, undocumented folks in this country is disgusting – no other word for it,” she wrote. “People are not illegal. Period. We don’t call murderers ‘illegal murderers.’ They are people who have committed a murder. Undocumented workers are people – not illegal aliens.

Eldridge wrote that she had been working over the last week for “various legal clinics in central Mississippi trying to help folks make sense of the senseless ICE raids that took place on August 7.”

“Being present in this country without authorization from the US government IS NOT A CRIME,” she wrote. “I put that in really big letters for those who need to digest that fact. Even though it is NOT A CRIME, the government is entitled to haul you away with your hands zip-tied, then lock you up like a criminal until they decide what to do with you.”

The raids initially detained 680 workers who were suspected of living in the U.S. without legal permission.

At the time, federal officials said it was the largest immigration raid in a single state in history.

Approximately half of those detained were later released, but images and video surfaced of children whose parents were detained. The federal government says those children were later reunited with their parents.

“From the folks I met, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to who was locked up, who was given an ankle bracelet, and who was released,” Eldridge wrote. “And, by “released” I mean driven back to where they were picked up at 3 or 4 the next morning and dropped off.”

Eldridge wrote that the undocumented immigrants appeared to be working to support their families, jobs that are difficult.

“Would I be willing to work in a chicken plant for 12 years, working overtime and not getting paid time and a half, in order to feed my family?” she asked in her post. “I like to think I would if I had no other options, but I am not sure what the answer to that question is.”

Eldridge said her work proved to her that good people with good hearts still existed.

“I met volunteers from at least 10 different states who came to translate, help set up legal clinics to deal with the needs of those arrested and their families, care for children, provide food, diapers, etc., and just genuinely be there for the folks affected,” she wrote. “I also met lots of good Mississippians who donated food and other items, helped babysit kids while their parents were interviewed, sent money, raised money, cooked, cleaned, basically did whatever they could to help those in need. Jesus would be proud of them.”