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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 34      September 17, 2007


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(lead article)
‘Stop ICE raids!’
Workers in Boston protest immigration sweep
Militant/Ted Leonard
September 4 march and rally in Massachusetts protested immigration raids the week before.

CHELSEA, Massachusetts, September 4—A march and rally here today protested a three-day immigration sweep through East Boston, Chelsea, and surrounding areas.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) claims the operation was aimed at suspected members of the Salvadoran gang MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) who had outstanding warrants. The 36 people arrested August 28-30, however, are being held on immigration, not criminal, charges. They are facing deportation to Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as El Salvador.

The sweep involved local cops and ICE agents, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Department, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

Authorities have refused to release the names of those arrested.

In a similar action August 8, ICE agents arrested 27 people in the parking lot of a Chelsea supermarket called Market Basket. An ICE agent posing as a Department of Homeland Security official offered to sell work authorization cards and residency cards to undocumented immigrants.

Ninety people attended a community meeting at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in East Boston August 30 to protest. Gladys Vega from the Chelsea Collaborative and Edwin Argueta from the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council chaired the meeting.

“It is an excuse ICE is giving that they are only targeting those with criminal backgrounds,” said Lucy Pineda, of Latinos Unidos en Massachusetts.

“We have to send a message to state and federal government people that people come to this country to work hard,” she said, adding, “we do not condone criminal activity.”

“The real criminals are in the White House,” said Lyn Meza, from Chelsea United Against the War.

“The target of these raids is not gang members, but us,” said Betsy Farley, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for Boston City Council in District 1, from the floor. “All working people, no matter what our country of origin, should demand an end to the raids and immediate legalization of all immigrants.

“We need to organize a broad public action response against these raids. Their tactic is to win acceptance of these police actions because they are supposedly targeting criminals,” said Farley. “We can’t fall into their trap.”

Representatives from Roca, Inc.; Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition; and the Boston May Day Coalition also spoke at the meeting.

John Willshire Carrera of Greater Boston Legal Services, said a March ICE raid on a New Bedford factory backfired on the agency. ICE agents jailed dozens of women with children solely for immigration violations. After public outcry they released more than 200 of the 361 arrested. Since then, Willshire said, ICE has conducted its raids in the Boston area under cover of going after criminals.

News of the August 28 sweep became public when an immigrant rights activist, Tito Meza, on his way to work that morning saw ICE agents confronting someone at a local subway stop. He attempted to take pictures and was threatened with arrest. He called WUNR 1600 AM, a local radio station with broadcasts in Spanish and other languages. His call was broadcast live as he reported what the ICE agents were doing. Throughout the morning people called into the radio station to report the location of the agents.

MBTA Deputy Chief Paul MacMillan said a transit cop participated in the operation in East Boston. “They came up empty after going to three houses,” he told the Boston Globe. “They couldn’t find who they were looking for.”

An East Boston man who only identified himself as Eric told the Boston Globe that immigration cops entered his brother’s apartment with a warrant for a man who no longer lived in the building. They arrested his brother, a permanent resident from El Salvador, after they discovered he had been convicted of a minor alcohol-related offense three years earlier.

At Sterlingwear, a UNITE-HERE organized sewing factory in East Boston, workers stopped work when the WUNR reported, incorrectly, that ICE was on their way to the plant.

About 200 attended today’s rally. Speakers included Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of the Chicago church that gave sanctuary to former airplane cleaner and immigrant rights activist Elvira Arellano, who was deported last month; Gladys Vega of the Chelsea Collaborative; Lucy Pineda of Latinos Unidos en Massachusetts; and Tito Mezo of Proyecto Hondureño.
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