New Bedford, MA - One Month Later


PRESS RELEASE April 3, 2007                                            

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:  Ali Noorani, 617-835-1402 Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition For Affected Families Contact: Michele Rudy, 857-919-3574 Carlos Saavedra, 617-459-1935 

One Month Later: Families Divided Urge for the Release of Their Loved Ones

Boston, MA – Four weeks after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials raided the Michael Bianco, Inc Factory in New Bedford, at least 232 immigrants remain detained including171 in Harlingen and El Paso, TX.  Community leaders continue to learn of detainees without adequate access to food, and pregnant women and parents of small and sick children who are still in detention. 

Maria Briselda Amaya, detained in Bristol, is one such detainee.  She is the mother of a 2 year old and 4 year old who are struggling as a result of her detention, according to medical providers at the New Bedford Community Health Center.   "I need my wife to be with me. My children are suffering. It has been a month and their mother is still in jail. She was just working to help the family. And now our family is torn apart." -Lilo Mancia, husband of Maria Amaya  Solano Chaj, father of a baby with respiratory issues, is detained in El Paso, Texas. His U.S. citizen wife, Paola, is desperate for his return as he is the sole breadwinner for their family.  

"My baby has respiratory problems. I need Solano with me to take care of the baby. He keeps telling me he is going to get out soon, but it’s been a month and nothing happens. I think he is just saying that to make me feel better" -Paola, wife of Solano Chaj According to information compiled by community agencies, 2 pregnant women and at least 30 parents of young children remain detained.   

On a parallel track, under the leadership of a team of lawyers including John Willshire-Carrera and Nancy Kelly of Greater Boston Legal Services, a federal judge is due to reassess a federal injunction on April 19, 2007 to return the detainees to MA.  Yet as he is making his decision, detainees in Texas move in an expedited fashion through the detention process with minimal access to legal representation, and face bonds 2-3 times higher than those in Boston.  As a result, people are getting deported more quickly and families are continuing to struggle. “The legal challenge to the quick transfer of these detainees has been an uphill battle.  Of the over 100 persons whisked to El Paso Texas after we filed our law suite in federal court, we know of no people who were able to be bonded out.  We have, however, gotten several calls of persons who expressed being pressured into accepting removal from the US despite the fact that they may have cases for immigration relief on a humanitarian basis.  These people were working and living in Massachusetts and they have a right to be allowed to proceed with their cases here in this District, with the support of their families and communities, and with lawyers that are available here,” stated John Willshire-Carrera of Greater Boston Legal Services.  

Finally, the humanitarian crisis in New Bedford continues in spite of an outpouring of aid from across the country.  Approximately $140,000 has been pledged to the New Bedford Immigrant Families/Ninos Fund, with funds dedicated to families with young children.  Yet, families without children face the same pressures of paying rent, buying food or seeking medical care – all with minimal or no support from local agencies.   Corinn Williams, Executive Director of the Community Economic Development Center, offered, “It has been wonderful to see small children reunited with their mothers, but so many families are still worried sick about their loved ones still in detention. Those sent to El Paso have suffered the most-many have lived in New Bedford for years and now find their dream of a better life shattered. Are we really a more secure nation by locking up mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters without criminal records for weeks on end without due process? " 

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said “Immigration officials have severely damaged the hardworking, taxpaying immigrant community of New Bedford. Congress needs to investigate the New Bedford raids and hold immigration officials accountable for their actions.”  ### MIRA works to advocate for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through education, training, leadership development, organizing, policy analysis and advocacy.

RaidsFIRM Admin