Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Tennessee College of Law received a call to action to help those detained by ICE during a raid in Grainger County.
An email, sent to the school Thursday, just hours after a raid on an East Tennessee slaughterhouse by the IRS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. What initially began as a criminal raid turned into immigration operation at Southeastern Provisions, a cattle slaughter business in Bean Station.
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During the raid, 97 people were found who were subject to removal from the United States. Ten of those were arrested on federal criminal charges, one on state charges and 86 on administrative charges. Of the 86 administrative arrests, 54 were placed in detention and 32 were released.
Students Kevin Morris and Savannah Flowers say they dropped everything and went to help.
“We came down ready to serve in any capacity that was needed. I spent a significant portion of Friday carting in food, and hygiene products. Nothing with the law — but what was needed,” said Flowers.
Both students are in their third and final year of Law School and say they plan to continue this kind of work once they graduate.
“I think attorneys have the rare opportunity to advocate for people who don’t have a voice, and if they do, people aren’t listening. Ultimately, I want to work really hard for those people who are struggling to find a voice. That’s what I got to do this weekend. that’s why me and Kevin dropped everything and went to Morristown this weekend,” said Flowers.
The college partnered with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. They assisted attorneys in collecting information to draft power of attorney documents for families of individuals in custody.
“Knowing a little bit about the law you can understand why that question is being asked. Like, why is your family… did anybody hurt you? Do you have any family here that has a hardship? There’s ways to essentially get relief through the system later on,” said Morris.
The students said they are used to volunteering through the college of law. They recently attended a spring break trip to Louisiana where they worked on immigration issues.
Dean Melanie Wilson says the school’s 2018 graduating class will graduate with a combined total of 10,000 volunteer hours.