Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will testify before a national immigration misconduct commission in Boston on Monday to speak on his experiences from last summer’s immigration raids in Fair Haven, which provoked an outcry from Latino leaders and supportive community members.
The hearings will examine the personal, community and economic repercussions of immigration raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, as well as what the union suggests are infringements of its workers’ rights. But officials from ICE — who have refused to make an appearance in Boston — said the hearings are illegitimate and the arguments against the agency are misleading, if not outright falsehoods.
DeStefano’s role stems from last year’s June 6 raids by the Department of Homeland Security, when ICE agents arrested 32 undocumented immigrants during a series of raids in the predominantly Hispanic Fair Haven neighborhood. Just two days prior to the raids, New Haven aldermen had approved the Elm City Resident Card program, which made the city the first in the nation to offer identification regardless of immigration status. City Hall officials said they believed there might be some connection between the two based on internal e-mails released by the ICE — a claim the Department of Homeland Security flatly denies.
City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the mayor will discuss the impact of the raids in Fair Haven based on his discussion with community members directly affected by them.
“He’ll pull some quotes that are important to him,” Mayorga said. “He is going to be talking about the effect of the ICE raids on families and communities.”
Three panels throughout the day will include a range of business leaders and professionals, along with individuals who were present during various raids around the country, said Scott Frotman, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers.
The mayor, who will testify in the third panel of the day, will be joined by a psychologist with the Latino Mental Health program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, and a community member from Springfield, Mass., where a raid has taken place, Frotman said.
“The [hearings] will drill down and examine the raids, to expose any misconduct that occurred,” Frotman said. “[The goal is] to ultimately produce a report that makes all the information public and makes series of recommendations that could ultimately could be packaged legislatively to reform problems in the system.”
Frotman said the union has invited Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, the head of the ICE, to attend the hearings.
“We would think she would have important things to say,” he said. “As of now, she has declined our invitation to testify.”
But spokespeople for the ICE said there is no point attending a hearing in which the outcome is already determined.
“The title of the hearing is why you won’t be seeing anyone from the ICE there,” Pat Reilly, an agency spokeswoman said, referring to word “misconduct” and the suggestion 4th Amendment rights have been violated. “We do not ‘misconduct’ our enforcement. We conduct ourselves professionally.”
Tim Counts, another agency spokesman who was present at the 2006 ICE operations in Worthington, Minn., — where undocumented workers at the Swift meat packing plant and represented by the UFCW were arrested — said enforcement procedures have not changed for decades, and the 4th Amendment allegations against the agency have already been argued and dismissed in court.
“The image being created by this commission is patently false,” he said. “It is quite common for people who advocate illegal immigration to greatly exaggerate concerns of humanitarian misconduct and spread outright falsehoods.”
He noted that an official of UFCW in Marshalltown, Iowa, had been charged with “harboring illegal aliens.”
Following the raids in June, though, City Hall cited sworn testimony that ICE agents had produced no warrants during the home raids and had not identified themselves with badges or paperwork. Nor had they informed local police ahead of time, as required, a City Hall statement said.
But a statement in June from Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff noted that “a warrant is not necessary when arresting someone who is in the country illegally.”
Offering perhaps some indication of what DeStefano will address, a statement from City Hall after the raids cited racial profiling and psychological trauma experienced by children who watched ICE officials yell, handcuff and intimidate their parents while detaining them.