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EDITORIAL

Bringing ICE to heel in Boston

Lilian Calderon, center, cried as she described her experiences while in custody, alongside her husband, Luis Gordillo, right, during a news conference at the office of the American Civil Liberties Union in Providence, R.I.
Lilian Calderon, center, cried as she described her experiences while in custody, alongside her husband, Luis Gordillo, right, during a news conference at the office of the American Civil Liberties Union in Providence, R.I.(Michelle R. Smith/Associated Press/File)

It seems entirely appropriate, as this nation approaches yet another anniversary of its birth, to look at what its founding document, the Declaration of Independence means in today’s fractious battles over immigration.

That’s just what US District Court Judge Mark Wolf did in an immigration case still before him — this one involving the detention of immigrant parents living among us in New England and their separation from their American-born spouses and children.

“This country was born with a declaration of universal human rights, proclaiming that ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,’ and that among these is ‘Liberty,’” Wolf wrote in a court memorandum and order issued recently in the so-called Calderon case.

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The civil suit, now certified as a class action, was brought by five local couples against the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, following arrests made when they showed up for interviews with immigration officials.

The arrests and detentions went beyond being a cruel hoax. They were a violation of ICE’s own regulations, and due process, Wolf found.

During the three-day court hearing that preceded that order, then-acting director of Boston’s ICE field office Thomas Brophy swore that he had ordered an end to such in-office arrests of immigrants seeking legal status.

Brophy said he told his officers “we were going to focus on public safety. We were not going to conduct those arrests [at government offices] unless there was a threat to national security or public safety.”

That was cold comfort to some 30 to 40 detainees eventually identified by ICE officials to Wolf, 20 of whom have since been released, but the judge noted, “The court has not been informed of the status of 10 to 20 aliens who were evidently also denied due process.”

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But that’s far from the end of the suit being fought by the American Civil Liberties Union and WilmerHale. In fact, ICE officials — already accused by Wolf of lying under oath — can’t seem to get out of their own way.

Yet another interim field office director for Boston, Rebecca Adducci, informed the court in an affidavit filed June 19 that she intended basically to give Brophy’s pledge a big “never mind.”

Adducci has already come under fire in Detroit for ICE raids targeting schools and a Head Start center in a Hispanic neighborhood as parents dropped off their children.

Now she is here to enforce President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. She said in her court filing that, in light of those orders, “ICE cannot commit to exempt classes of aliens, such as non-criminals, from possible arrest and detention.”

It’s little wonder, with folks like Adducci in charge, that some politicians are calling for the feel-good gesture of simply doing away with ICE. But what is really needed is a concerted effort — of which the Calderon case here and a federal case being heard in San Diego involving separated migrant families are examples — to make the agency abide by the rule of law that applies to all who arrive within these borders.

As Wolf said of ICE, “Its indifference to its duty not to deprive aliens of liberty without due process is not unique to these cases.”

Indeed it isn’t. But as long as there are laws and courts to enforce them, ICE is an agency that can be brought to heel — and to be reminded that it is not serving a banana republic.

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