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|3/8: Patrick wants detainees from immigration raid kept in Mass.
Released 09 March 2007  By David Weber - Associated Press
Patrick wants detainees from immigration raid kept in Mass.
David Weber, Associated Press
March 8, 2007
BOSTON -- Gov. Deval Patrick urged federal authorities to not move any more factory workers detained in an immigration raid out of state until their children are located and arrangements are made for their care.
"I urged the federal government to stop all flights out of Fort Devens immediately until we can be assured that all parents have been identified and appropriate arrangements made for their children and dependents," Patrick said at a Statehouse news conference.
Federal authorities postponed a third flight that was scheduled to depart at noon Thursday after Patrick twice called Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff seeking better cooperation from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at Fort Devens.
"What we have never understood about this process is why it turned into a race to the airport," Patrick said. "There are families affected, there are children affected."
Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers said ICE agents asked each of thhose arrested if they were sole caregivers to children. Myers noted that 60 people were released as a result of that questioning. She said ICE was being unfairly criticized for allegedly not considering the needs of children affected by the arrests.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," she wrote in a letter to Patrick.
Patrick traveled to New Bedford Thursday night to meet the mayor, local lawmakers, community leaders and relatives of those detained.
"There were stories of humiliation, fear, anxiety, uncertainty," he told reporters afterward. "It reflects, for me, not what this country is about."
Children affected by the raid included a 27-day-old infant, Massachusetts Department of Social Services spokeswoman Denise Monteiro said. She said one woman was released Thursday night to nurse her 7-month-old infant, who was hospitalized in New Bedford for dehydration because the baby rejected formula.
Federal immigration officials have allowed state social workers to travel to the out-of-state detention centers "and identify some of the people they took too early before we got to interview them," Monteiro said.
"We are committed not only to enforce the law, but also to make sure that humanitarian necessities are addressed," ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi said Thursday night.
The state has identified at least 35 children whose parents were arrested, said JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of Health and Human Services. She said those children were staying with relatives or friends, but she added that it's important for state social workers to interview their parents to make sure the kids are staying with responsible adults. The state said it had found 29 foster homes in case they were needed.
There are other children who are either adolescents or had keys to their homes "and went home with no one there," Bigby said.
"They have not self-identified themselves. We have no idea how many that is," she said.
Patrick asked anyone with information about children in need of help to call 1-800-792-5200 . He emphasized that the state has no role in turning illegal immigrants over to federal authorities.
At least 60 of the 361 people detained from Tuesday's raid have been released for humanitarian reasons, most related to child care issues. They must still appear before a judge for immigration hearings, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
About 90 people were flown from the former Fort Devens military base to a detention center in Harlingen, Texas, on Wednesday. Some 116 others were flown to Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Raimondi said.
The detainees remaining in Massachusetts have been transferred to local jails, except for those who have been released on humanitarian grounds, and the Devens facility has now been vacated, Raimondi said.
Patrick on Wednesday expressed concern that the children of the detainees -- most of whom are from Guatemala and El Salvador -- might not be receiving proper care. But immigration officials insist they coordinated with state social service agencies in advance.
In the raid on the Michael Bianco Inc., factory, company owner Francesco Insolia, 50, and three top managers were arrested. A fifth person was arrested on charges of helping workers obtain fake identification.
"They came in and swept up all these workers, most of them women," Patrick said. "The folks who run that plant? They're back at work today. And I think there's something wrong with that."
Authorities allege Insolia oversaw sweatshop conditions so he could meet the demands of $91 million in U.S. military contracts.
The Defense Logistics Agency said Thursday it was suspending the company from bidding on future contracts. No changes were made to the firm's current $83.6 million contract with the agency.
The company, which has made products including safety vests and lightweight backpacks for the military, has also done work for the Army.
Investigators said the workers toiled in dingy conditions and faced onerous fines, such as a $20 charge for talking while working and spending more than two minutes in the bathroom.
Associated Press writer Andrew Miga in Washington contributed to this report.
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