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Hearing on New Bedford Raid

Reaction to the recent immigration raid ona leather goods factory in New Bedford continues to reverberate through the Bay State.

On Beacon Hill yesterday, key figures from the Patrick Administration testified before a joint legislative committee.

As WBUR'S Meghna Chakrabarti reports, the lawmakers want to avoid a repeat of the event that separated immigrant parents from their children.

TEXT OF STORY

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: The hearing took place in an underground State House auditorium that was more bunker than Beacon Hill. But the concrete, window-less walls couldn't contain lawmakers' frustrations. They questioned top Patrick administration officials for hours. Asking: did federal immigration enforcement officials have a written policy on dealing with children affected by the raid? State Secretary for Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby finally responded:

JUDYANN BIGBY: "I was told after the fact that they don't have a written procedure."

CHAKRABARTI: And that was strange, according to Secretary for Public Safety and former district attorney, Kevin Burke.

KEVIN BURKE: "It's kind of odd for me as a lawyer who's seen thousands of federal regulations that they didn't have a regulation or a rule for this, but they didn't have a regulation or a rule or set of rules, and they should have."

CHAKRABARTI: The state committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, the group that held the hearing, wants to change that. They're considering proposing guidelines to smooth coordination between federal immigration authorities and state social services. The federal government is under no obligation to accept anything the state recommends. But committee-co chair Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland says that won't stop her from pushing for change.

KAREN SPILKA: "The Federal government supremacy issue is more of an immigration issue. They certainly have the right to force federal immigration laws. But when it negatively impacts our children, our minors as residents, I think the state does have a role to play."

MARK RAIMONDI: "If they're asking for a blueprint on what detainees can say during interviews to be released, that's not going to happen."

CHAKRABARTI: Mark Raimondi is spokesman for Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. He says additional guidelines could end up hampering law enforcement.

Federal Officials were not invited to testify yesterday. Spilka said they'll be invited to Beacon Hill for the next round of hearings on the New Bedford raids.

But a heated exchange is already going on in Washington.

Senator Ted Kennedy, received a sharply worded letter from Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff yesterday. He took issue with Kennedy's characterization of the raid as 'ill-conceived and hastily implemented.' Chertoff insisted, 'ICE acted with compassion.'

For WBUR, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti.

This program aired on March 21, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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