Family events break post-raid tension

Children play at the community gathering.

- Families split by the immigration raid last month at the Swift meatpacking plant enjoyed a respite from their difficulties Sunday at a community gathering.

It was the first time the families had come together since the Dec. 12 raid, which involved the arrest of some 230 people in Worthington and more than 1,000 in five other cities. More than 300 people filled the Prairie Elementary School gymnasium Sunday afternoon for the event sponsored by the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network and other community groups in Worthington.

The families shared a meal and had the opportunity to talk about their experiences. In addition, the event featured music and a toy giveaway for the children.

The focus of the gathering was "healing, coming together after a really difficult time and trying to help each other move forward in a positive manner," said Sharon Johnson, coordinator of the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

"My son told me he felt like crying this Christmas," said Luz Casares, secretary of the Nobles County Community Action group, one of the groups that helped organize Sunday's gathering. "But we all felt like crying for the people who were taken away during the raid, you can feel the sadness in the air."

The event was funded through contributions from across the state, said Jerry Fiola of District 518, Worthington School Community Education. One man even sent in his disability payment "because there are people here who need it more than we do," Fiola said.

Some of those arrested in the raid have left the country, according to news reports, while others remain in federal custody. Organizers said another event to support the families will be scheduled in February.

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