Immigration policy badly flawed

By Staff Editorial

Exactly one week ago, federal authorities raided a leather-goods factory in New Bedford, Mass. and detained 361 workers on suspicion that they were illegal immigrants.

The majority of those detained were mothers who were not given the opportunity to reach relatives to care for their children.

In the wake of this federal action, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services has sent several officials down to the Port Isabel Detention Center near Harlingen, Texas to interview those being held. Governor Deval Patrick has called the situation a humanitarian crisis.

This strong assertion by the governor is right on the money in light of the family ties torn apart over the course of a day and the children abandoned in the wake of this raid. As reported by the Boston Globe, the DSS is now urging the federal government to release the mother of a four-year-old girl who requires a feeding tube and that of a two-year-old boy with a respiratory ailment. One baby whose mother remains in detention has already been hospitalized for dehydration because she was still breast-feeding.

While we recognize that illegal immigration poses a serious problem in this country, we do not think that this predicament justifies government abuse of human rights. Immigration is a complicated issue with far-reaching effects, and immigration law must take this complexity into account. This raid has left social workers in Massachusetts scrambling to ensure that parentless children find some sort of custodial care.

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What is particularly disconcerting about this state of affairs is that all the actions taken by the government were legal. Since the passage of a 1996 immigration reform bill, family circumstances can no longer constitute legitimate considerations for an immigration judge reviewing the case of an illegal immigrant.

The implication of this policy is that American citizens under the age of 18 can all of a sudden find themselves alone, without their parents.

According to an article published in The New York Times, 3 million American-born children have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant.

Regardless of one’s stance on illegal immigration, no citizen should feel comfortable with the knowledge that their countrymen can be so dramatically deprived of safety and well-being.

Furthermore, forcibly detaining the New Bedford workers without thoroughly reviewing their cases was poor and potentially dangerous work on the part of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sixty people who might have been spared this ordeal have already been released because of a demonstrated need to care for their children, as reported in The Boston Globe.

At this point, a federal judge has ordered the DSS to work in conjunction with the ICE to determine how many children have been separated from their primary caregivers.

We only wish that the children could have been considered before the raid. At least there will soon be a Congressional investigation undertaken to examine the matter.

If our country is willing to intervene overseas to stop human rights abuses, we should not feel comfortable turning a blind eye to abandoned children at home.