State Social Services May Screen Detainees in Workplace Raids

DHS's Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement released "Guidelines for Identifying Humanitarian Concerns among Administrative Arrestees When Conducting Worksite Enforcement Operations" on Nov. 16 after several months of discussions with state and federal representatives of Massachusetts who were concerned by the March 6, 2007, arrest of 362 workers at the Michael Bianco leather goods factory in New Bedford, Mass. U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt wanted ICE to issue guidelines establishing best practices for quickly identifying arrested persons who are sole caregivers or should be released from custody for other humanitarian reasons.

About 200 of the detained New Bedford workers were moved within two days to facilities in Texas because there was insufficient bed space in Massachusetts, according to the ICE timeline of the enforcement operation, which was named Operation United Front. "Since the New Bedford raids, our offices have been working closely with ICE to develop guidelines on humanitarian screening for workers arrested in immigration raids," the two congressmen said in a joint Nov. 16 statement. "We hope these guidelines will ensure that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and sole caregivers will no longer be subject to detention. We commend ICE for agreeing to permit state social service agencies to participate in humanitarian screening of arrestees whenever possible."

The new guidelines say that, prior to conducting a work site enforcement operation targeting the arrest of more than 150 people, ICE should develop a comprehensive plan to identify at the earliest possible point anyone arrested on administrative charges who may be a sole caregiver or have other humanitarian concerns, including serious medical conditions that require special attention, pregnant women, nursing mothers, parents who are the sole caretakers of minor children or disabled or seriously ill relatives, and parents who are needed to support their spouses in caring for sick or special needs children or relatives. ICE also agreed, at the direction of the DHS assistant secretary, to implement the guidelines in all smaller work site enforcement operations where practical.

ICE also agreed that it should coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Immigration Health Services to provide a sufficient number of personnel to assess the humanitarian needs of arrestees at the ICE processing site. Detainees should not be transferred out of the general area until the DIHS assessments have been completed, according to the guidelines.

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