WMass residents arrested in nationwide ICE raids

Published: 9/29/2017 9:27:42 PM

NORTHAMPTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 50 people statewide, including at least 10 in western Massachusetts, this week as part of a four-day nationwide crackdown, according to immigrant advocates.

The raids, dubbed “Operation Safe City,” focused on so-called sanctuary cities, where ICE is barred from entering jails and prisons to interview those suspected of immigration violations, and where the agency’s requests to detain those arrested are not honored. A total of 498 people across the country were arrested during the operation, according to an ICE press release.

Of the 50 people arrested in the state, at least 10 appear to be men from western Massachusetts, according to the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. Rose Bookbinder, a lead organizer with the organization, said the arrested men were from Springfield, Holyoke and Greenfield, and had contacted the center’s emergency hotline.

The Gazette attempted to confirm those facts with ICE, but the agency did not respond to multiple email and phone requests for a list of those arrested, and has not yet responded to the Gazette’s Freedom of Information Act request for that information.

“This is clearly a move to try to suppress the amazing organizing that is going on,” Bookbinder said, referring to the local sanctuary city movement as well as efforts to make Massachusetts a “sanctuary state.” “We locally — in the state, across the country — are having an impact.”

In a list released this spring of jurisdictions that “have enacted policies which restrict cooperation with ICE,” the agency names Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Somerville. Holyoke, which has enacted some policies limiting cooperation with ICE, was not on that list. In August, Greenfield Town Council voted down a proposal to make the municipality a “safe city” for immigrants.

Of those arrested nationwide, 317 had criminal convictions for crimes ranging from driving under the influence — the most listed offense — assault, domestic violence and drug trafficking, according to ICE.

In a press release, ICE’s acting director explained why his agency is focusing on sanctuary cities. “Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” said ICE Acting Director Tom Homan. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”

Despite ICE saying “Operation Safe City” was focused on jurisdictions with sanctuary policies, police chiefs in Northampton and Amherst said that, as far as they’re aware, no ICE agents were operating in their jurisdictions during the operation.

“No ICE operations have recently occurred in our community to our knowledge,” Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper wrote in an email. “They are not obligated to inform us, although it is a courtesy that is typically extended.”

“Not in Amherst,” Police Chief Scott Livingstone said. “They would have reached out to us.” Livingstone said he wasn’t surprised by the raids in the state, but said in the past he has been concerned that the federal government would try to strip funding from municipalities that are uncooperative with ICE. The Trump administration has previously attempted, by executive order, to withhold funding from sanctuary cities, but that order was blocked in federal court.

Advocates for sanctuary-city policies said that by refusing to act as immigration agents, local police departments make immigrants without legal status feel less afraid to report crimes to law enforcement, and more likely to use social services.

“Our role would not be to assist ICE in any sort of roundups,” Livingstone said. “It is about trust, it is about keeping them safe. That’s what we strive for.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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