For Immediate Release - March 07, 2007

GOVERNOR PATRICK ASKS CONGRESSMAN DELAHUNT TO HELP SOCIAL SERVICE WORKERS GET ACCESS TO FAMILIES DETAINED AT FORT DEVENS

GOVERNOR PATRICK ASKS CONGRESSMAN DELAHUNT TO HELP SOCIAL SERVICE WORKERS GET ACCESS TO FAMILIES DETAINED AT FORT DEVENS

BOSTON - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - Governor Deval Patrick today asked Congressman William C. Delahunt to assist state Department of Social Services (DSS) staff gain access to the workers detained by federal authorities after a sweeping immigration raid at a New Bedford company.

The governor immediately mobilized DSS to provide emergency support for children and families in Massachusetts who were affected by Tuesday's raid but federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have not allowed access to detainees. Congressman Delahunt serves on the House Judiciary Committee which has oversight over federal policies on immigration.

"The Department of Social Services needs to have staff on site at Fort Devens to provide support for the detainees and coordinate support for their children. We are particularly concerned about the Guatemalan community and the risk that they may be fearful about disclosing the existence or whereabouts of their children given their history with government agencies," Governor Patrick wrote in the letter.

While company officials were taken to Boston to appear in court, workers believed to be undocumented immigrants were transported to a federal detention center on the grounds of the former Fort Devens.

"We want to provide as many opportunities for safe disclosure as possible to better ensure children's safety," Governor Patrick said in the letter. "We are requesting your help to be allowed to have Department staff on site to assist families traumatized by this devastating event."

In the meantime, DSS continues to work with local officials and community activists to help families affected by Tuesday's federal action. The Department has found 29 foster homes for children impacted by yesterday's actions. So far, DSS has matched 35 children to families being held at Devens and is checking with local schools to determine if students who are absent are affected by the ongoing events. The department also is trying to determine if any children were not picked up after school or from day care centers. DSS also has assigned additional bilingual staff to its hotline (800) 792-5200.

Massachusetts authorities also are reaching out to the Rhode Island Department of Children and Families in case affected families lived there with children in school.
 

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