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Posted Friday, April 6, 2007
Judge halts deportation of immigrants arrested in New Bedford, MA
Jesse Harlan Alderman, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON, Apr. 6, 2007 - A Massachusetts judge on Friday temporarily barred federal officials from deporting a large group of illegal immigrants snared in a factory raid last month.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns granted the emergency request from lawyers for the detained immigrants, who argued that about 110 of 360 workers arrested may have agreed to waive an appeal of their deportation order under duress or with improper translators.

The judge's order lasts for 10 days and does not apply to detainees that already had been ordered deported before they were arrested in the March 6 raid at the Michael Bianco Inc. factory in New Bedford. The company makes equipment and apparel for the U.S. military.

Attorneys for the detainees argue that federal immigration officials tried to hurry the deportation process and separate the former Massachusetts workers from their lawyers and families by taking many of them to holding centers in Port Isabel, near Harlingen, Texas, and to El Paso.

"I think (the judge) was troubled by the government not being more flexible in this," said Bernard J. Bonn III, an attorney for the detainees.

Mark Grady, an assistant U.S. attorney, argued at a hearing Friday that Massachusetts had limited bed space to hold detained immigrants and their removal was not meant to manipulate the process of deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have continually said they have not denied legal counsel to any of the detainees.

"It's important to remember that the illegal aliens arrested during the New Bedford enforcement action have always had access to legal materials, legal services and their consulates," ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi said in an e-mail.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

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