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Judge rejects call to return detainees

A federal judge has refused to return to Massachusetts more than 200 illegal immigrants arrested in factory raid and shipped to Texas detention centers to await deportation.

Earlier this week, US District Court Judge Richard Stearns dismissed a case brought by the detainees, agreeing with the government that his Massachusetts court has no jurisdiction.

Federal immigration officials arrested more than 360 people in a March 6 raid at the Michael Bianco Inc. factory in New Bedford, which makes equipment and apparel for the US military.

Lawyers had argued that the government intentionally deprived the immigrants of family and legal resources by transferring them to holding centers in Texas, in some cases hours after the raid.

After interviewing the detainees, the lawyers said several dozen immigrants were either coerced or confused when they agreed to waive an appeal of their deportation order. They argued that a return to Massachusetts would ensure that the government follows proper procedures.

Immigration and Customs Enforce ment lawyers repeatedly have said that the New Bedford workers were moved because there was no space to hold them in Massachusetts and that Texas officials have not denied them counsel.

Stearns' s ruling extended a 21-day restraining order barring the government from deporting any detainees until they can file their case in the appropriate court.