Letter to The Honorable Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
KERRY DEMANDS REPORT ON IMMIGRATION RAID PROCEDURES
ON ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF NEW BEDFORD RAID, KERRY PUSHES "FAMILIES FIRST ACT"
On the one year anniversary of the disastrous immigration raid in New Bedford, Senator John Kerry sent a letter to Julie Myers, the Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), asking her for a detailed report on what actions ICE has taken in the past year to ensure that humane practices are followed in all immigration raids.
"One year ago, New Bedford endured an ordeal the city will never forget. Mothers were separated from their babies and the elderly spent the night in jail while the man who'd hired them illegally spent the night at home in his own bed. Since then ICE has adopted new procedures they assert would ensure these humanitarian disasters aren't repeated, but recent raids in other parts of the country suggest they're not living up to their own policy," said Senator Kerry. "ICE seems to be much more aggressive about policing others than policing itself. If ICE won't live by its own guidelines, we need to put the force of law behind them."
Kerry has proposed the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act, a bill to force ICE to treat future detainees more humanely than they treated the immigrant families of New Bedford. The bill requires ICE to take several common-sense measures to help them enforce the law without inflicting undue suffering.
The text of the letter is as follows:
March 6, 2008
The Honorable Julie Myers
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
425 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20536
Dear Secretary Myers,
As you may know, today marks the one year anniversary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Operation United Front in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a raid on the Michael Bianco Inc. factory in which 361 immigrants were taken into custody. In the past year I have contacted your office several times to express concern and frustration over the planning, execution and aftermath of this raid. I also requested an investigation by the Inspector General into the protocol followed by ICE agents and what could have been done to avoid the humanitarian tragedy that followed the raid. I look forward to receiving that report.
Beyond those efforts, I introduced legislation, the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act, to provide clear humanitarian standards which ICE officials would have to obey during workplace enforcement raids. The goal behind my bill was to ensure that a raid like the one in New Bedford never occurs again. I was pleased last November when ICE finally acknowledged the responsibility they have in protecting immigrants and their families during these raids. As you undoubtedly know, the agency proposed guidelines, similar to provisions in my legislation, to address the situation. I was hopeful that this action from ICE would result in more humane raids.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case. One year after the raid in New Bedford, we are still hearing stories of ICE agents intimidating immigrants, horrible detention conditions and families being torn apart. Just last month in Van Nuys, California, a raid on a printer supply company lead to widespread reports of violations of these very guidelines. A lawsuit has even been filed alleging that ICE agents denied detainee's access to legal counsel and, as in New Bedford, workers who attempted to call family members and arrange for child care claim that agents prevented them from doing so. This is unacceptable.
I am therefore renewing my efforts to enact the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act into law. We can all agree that our immigration laws should be enforced, but we must ensure that they are done so humanely. My bill requires ICE to take several common-sense measures to help enforce the law without inflicting undue suffering. For example, it requires ICE to give state agencies advance notice so that they can arrange for someone who speaks the same language as the detainees at the raid site. My bill includes special exceptions for the sick, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, for parents who are the sole caretakers of children or elderly relatives, and for other groups especially vulnerable to the consequences of a raid. And the Families First Immigration Enforcement Act also demands that access to free legal counsel be provided to detainees. Given that ICE used many of these same provisions in their own guidelines, I would hope that you would share my dedication towards ensuring that these humanitarian standards be met.
To that end, I respectfully request a detailed update on what internal actions you are taking to ensure that your own guidelines are followed. Specifically, I would also like to know if you will consider taking the discretion away from ICE agents to follow the guidelines and make them enforceable rules. I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and look forward to your timely response.
As the city of New Bedford continues to heal, we cannot forget what happened on March 6, 2007. We owe it to the community and the families to ensure that a tragedy like this is never again repeated.
United States Senate