Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores Will Commemorate 10th Anniversary of Michael Bianco Raid in New Bedford on Sunday
This Sunday, March 5th, the Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores (CCT) will commemorate the 10th anniversary of an ICE raid of company Marco Bianco, Inc., in which 300 ICE agents raided the company’s factory, violently arresting and detaining over 360 Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and other workers. Father Marc Fallon, a longtime Guild friend and supporter, was active in the immediate response to the raid and CCT’s efforts since, and will be at the event on Sunday.
Adrián Ventura, CCT’s Executive Director, writes,
“In an attempt to both honor the pain of our community and heal the wounds this raid caused, CCT would like to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the raid with a celebration of our achievements over the past decade. CCT was founded as a response to this raid and as we face a racist and exclusionary administration, we would like to highlight the strengths and capabilities of our community.Please consider joining us on Sunday, March 5th at 2 o’clock in the afternoon in the CCT office (1532 Acushnet Ave., New Bedford, MA 02746) for this commemoration and celebration. We will include testimonies from workers of Michael Bianco as well as from workers who have successfully organized and secured their basic rights. We will also announce our future goals and campaigns. All are welcome, so please feel free to extend this invitation to anybody who might be interested.”
On a cold morning late in the winter of 2007, more than 300 agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, raided the factory and rousted 362 Guatemalans, Salvadorans and a sprinkling of other south-of-the-border workers. They were handcuffed and manacled, and over the course of the day were taken from where they sat on the factory floor into buses and driven 94 miles to Fort Devens, an Army Reserve base. Many spent several immobilized hours on that floor, feeling brutalized by the federal police, while others attempted to escape, some even jumping into Clark Cove to get away. Among those taken were parents of small children, about a hundred children in all, who were suddenly without parental care. The new governor, Deval Patrick, spurred by the state’s child welfare agency being denied a role in the “processing” after weeks of pleading, called the whole shabby affair “a humanitarian crisis.”
And indeed it was. Within hours, before lawyers could be dispatched to Fort Devens, about half of the arrested workers were flown to Texas (either to Harlingen or to El Paso) to be incarcerated in detention centers run by private contractors for the Department of Homeland Security, ICE’s home department. There the possibility of being released, even with an ankle bracelet to monitor movements, was undercut by the lack of “community ties” of the detainees. Months of detention for many of the Michael Bianco workers lay ahead. About 160 would be deported outright.
As Williams pointed out, this was the first major ICE raid in which a majority of detainees were women—and young, child-bearing women at that.
The families back in New Bedford were in many cases not informed of the whereabouts of their loved ones, so when Senator Kennedy appeared in the basement of St. James on Saturday New Bedford was still in a state of crisis. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), Corinn Williams, and other local activists, including the priests, had coped well with the unattended children. A range of services had been created on the spot, literally overnight, to fill the immediate needs of families without wage earners. In fact, the response of the community—from the whole of eastern Massachusetts—was astonishing. Not only had the lawyers come, organized by the Greater Boston Legal Services, but nursing students from the community college set up a child-care center. A food bank was set up; it operated for three months. The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts shepherded $144,000 of donations to help the workers’ families to pay rent and utility bills and buy groceries. Father Wilson recalls that even the parishioners who had been so upset by the church’s embrace of the Latinos donated generously to the food bank.
But the trauma of the raid was powerful all the same.
Read more here, and attend the event on Sunday if you can.
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