NEW BEDFORD, MASS. — The former Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford, Mass., recently spoke about a March 6, 2007, Federal immigration raid of a factory in the city of New Bedford that caused what he described as a “tremendous human tragedy” in a 10-year memorial video released yesterday.
Lang, who was the city’s mayor until 2012, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a Division of the Department of Homeland Security, misrepresented the purpose and plan for the raid, which has left the city of New Bedford rattled until this day.
The 2007 raid arrested 361 workers at the Michael Bianco plant, which produced backpacks and other supplies for U.S. armed forces. They were taken to Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., for processing, according to the Boston Globe. While some were released or able to obtain legal status in Massachusetts (about 90, according to the Washington Post), many were deported.
The Boston Globe reported that the factory owners were charged with exploiting the legal system. They were accused of deliberately hiring illegal immigrants with fake documentation because they would tolerate poor factory conditions in exchange for paid work.
Lang said ICE presented the operation as a Federal need to address a company that was breaking employment laws and needed to be stopped. But,
“When this raid took place, [the Central American immigrants] by and large, were the target of the raid,” Lang said.
Many illegal workers were held for months following the immigration raid, Lang said, noting that the event tore the community apart, but the city rallied.
The Boston Globe reported that activists were outraged that instead of being helped in their vulnerability, immigrant families were separated.
Download the Community Raid Preparedness Checklist: Lessons Learned from New Bedford, Mass., and Marshalltown, Idaho, by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement on the National Immigration Law Center website.