DEC. 29, 2006 Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart briefs incoming Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke on the planned raid. He tells Burke only that it will be in New Bedford and will result in the detention of hundreds of illegal immigrants and the indictment of several people. Burke tells Foucart he is concerned that children of detained workers will be stranded after the raid and asks that DSS workers be allowed into the factory to get details on the whereabouts of the children.
Burke and two State Police colonels meet with Foucart in Burke's office to discuss the operation. Burke is told that the detainees would be taken to the former Fort Devens Army base after initial processing in New Bedford. Burke again requests that DSS be allowed to participate to take care of the needs of families affected by the raid. Foucart says no.
Burke for the first time briefs the governor's senior staff about the raid, though he can only provide the general outline provided to him by ICE. He expresses his concern to the staff about ICE's refusal to allow DSS to be involved on the day of the raids.
In a meeting in Foucart's office, Burke's deputy, Kurt N. Schwartz, asks ICE whether he can contact DSS about the planned raid. ICE says that DSS can be alerted that they should be ready in the Southeastern part of the state to assist many families March 6, but cannot be told specifically why. ICE and the state agree to set up a "triage team" in New Bedford on the day of the raids for an ICE liaison to relay information to state social workers at the New Bedford DSS office about stranded children and other family emergencies.
MARCH 1 Burke again briefs Patrick's staff, giving them more details of the operation, including that it will take place March 6.
MARCH 2 Schwartz, the undersecretary of public safety, tells DSS Commissioner Harry Spence he should "tell staff to ramp up, to be prepared to deal with a number of people on a single occasion, on Tuesday."
MARCH 4 In e-mails with Foucart, Schwartz again asks that ICE allow DSS workers to interview workers at the factory to determine whether they have children who need to be cared for. ICE refuses.
MARCH 5 In a conference call involving Foucart, Spence, and Schwartz the afternoon before the raid, the state officials make a final request that DSS be allowed to directly interview individual workers in New Bedford or Fort Devens. Foucart says no to New Bedford, though adds that access may be allowed at Devens. Foucart promises during the call that all detainees will be questioned thoroughly about child-care issues. Foucart says those released will include anybody with unattended children, women six or more months pregnant, and anyone with significant medical issues.
MARCH 6 300 ICE agents and other law enforcement officers raid the Michael Bianco Inc. factory on the New Bedford waterfront, charging that owner Francesco Insolia and three managers encouraged illegal immigrants to work there because they were more likely to accept the substandard working conditions at the leather goods factory. At least 300 workers who cannot prove they are in the country legally are detained. After initial screening at the factory in New Bedford, most of the workers are transferred to Fort Devens in Ayer for processing. Advocates express alarm about children whose parents were arrested.
MARCH 7 Governor Deval Patrick calls Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to demand that DSS workers be allowed access to the workers at Devens to interview workers who may have been too intimidated by ICE agents to disclose that they have children. Chertoff agrees. By the time DSS workers arrive at Devens on Wednesday night, 90 workers have been flown to a detention center in Harlingen, Texas. Of those who remain, DSS recommends 20 for humanitarian releases, joining the 60 who have already been allowed to return to New Bedford.
MARCH 8 Patrick protests the decision to fly detainees to Texas before DSS workers can speak to them. Another 116 detainees are flown to another detention center in El Paso, Texas.
MARCH 9 Immigrant advocates sue for the return to Massachusetts of detainees transported out of state. A federal judge orders ICE not to move any of the remaining detainees and to give them access to lawyers. The judge orders DSS and ICE to work together to resolve any further unresolved children's issues. ICE provides DSS with a list of the detainees to help them account for children who might need care.
MARCH 10 Two teams of DSS workers travel to detention centers in Texas to interview detainees.
MARCH 11 DSS workers recommend that 21 more detainees be released on humanitarian grounds, and ICE agrees to release 10 of them.
Sources: Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke, ICE Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart, Globe stories.