Rally in Boston for detained immigrants
BOSTON -- Marta Aguilera-Espineda was in a line with other immigrants bound for a Texas detention center when she screamed out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers that she could not leave her infant daughter.
As she sobbed in the line, an immigration officer removed her, she said. Twenty-three hours after officers descended on the New Bedford factory where she worked on an assembly line -- some jumping out of helicopters, others firing shots into the air, she said -- Aguilera-Espineda returned to the baby sitter minding her daughter, Kimberly, since she left for work the day before.
Aguilera-Espineda was rounded up with the 361 mostly Central American immigrants following the raid March 6 at a Michael Bianco Inc. factory that makes equipment and apparel for the U.S. military.
She worked at the plant for three years after making her way to the U.S. from Honduras. She said Tuesday she fears many of her co-workers with young children were not as lucky -- they remained in the long line of immigrants bound for Texas.
"For us this was a real tragedy," she said through a translator. "My baby has been very sick and I feel like it affected me too, since I've been very depressed since."
The suspected illegal immigrants were shipped to detention centers in Texas before a federal judge ordered the rest to remain in Massachusetts because advocates said the raid created a "humanitarian crisis."
Other immigrants released since the raid said at a rally Tuesday at Trinity Church in downtown Boston that chaos and confusion, similar to the scenario Marta Aguilera-Espineda explained, ruled at the detention centers.
About 200 people attended a rally where the released workers sang traditional El Salvadoran songs alongside immigration advocates and chanted "They will not move us" in Spanish.
As they protested in church, the court fight also continued Tuesday. Lawyers for the class-action group of 178 immigrants detained in the raid filed a brief arguing that Judge Richard Stearns of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts has jurisdiction over all of the immigrants, including those now in federal custody in other states.
The attorneys have already filed a petition asking the judge to return the detained immigrants to Massachusetts, where they can be closer to family and legal services.
In the days following the raid, immigration officials flew 90 alleged illegal immigrants to a detention center in Harlingen, Texas, 116 to El Paso, and a handful to Miami and Leesport, Pa., according to court papers filed Tuesday by the immigrants' lawyers.
Attorney Harvey Kaplan said that the judge's jurisdiction should extend to those already out of the state when the lawsuit was filed because the government acted in "bad faith" when they took those alleged illegal immigrants before they had access to lawyers.
"We're arguing that they should have the same rights as the people here including being in close proximity to family and support," Kaplan said. "This is an embarrassment to the U.S. government and to ICE."
The court filing also urged the government to halt deportation proceedings against some Guatemalan and El Salvadoran immigrants, many of them indigenous Mayans, because they may have legitimate or pending asylum claims after witnessing massacres in their native countries.
Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for ICE, said that the detainees in Texas have the same rights as those still held in Massachusetts. They have access to hearings before immigration judges and advice from lawyers, he said.
So far, immigration officials have released 90 detained immigrants, including 10 in Texas, because they are single mothers or have health or family concerns. He said all immigrants in the raid will continue to face deportation proceedings.
"Regardless of where we house our detainees, we are committed to their due process," he said.
Stearns has asked the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, which has been working to see that care is in place for detainees' children, and ICE, to report to him on any unresolved cases involving detainees who are sole caregivers of minor children. A DSS spokeswoman said the agency's report would be filed early Wednesday. Raimondi said the federal government has told the judge it knows of no unresolved cases involving sole caregivers of minor children.
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