NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) – U.S. Rep. William Delahunt said Sunday that there would be a Congressional investigation into the immigration raid at a leather goods factory last week that left dozens of families in turmoil.

Delahunt said the House Subcommittee on Immigration eventually will hold hearings on the roundup of 361 alleged illegal immigrants at Michael Bianco Inc., a company that made equipment and apparel for the U.S. military.

Delahunt wants the subcommittee to look into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies regarding the children and families of those arrested.

“Obviously this is just total chaos,” said Delahunt, D-Mass. “Right now we have confusion and people distraught over having no information over where their family members are.”

Delahunt joined Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, all Democrats, at a meeting of family members Sunday at a New Bedford church that has served as a clearinghouse since the Tuesday raid. Meanwhile, Department of Social Services officials continued to interview detainees in Texas, finding some that are sole caregivers.

“ICE welcomes the opportunity to further inform the Congressman and Senators about the extensive efforts we make to ensure the children of illegal aliens arrested in our enforcement actions are properly cared-for,” spokesman Marc Raimondi said.

In the raid, company owner Francesco Insolia, 50, and three top managers were arrested. A fifth person was arrested on charges of helping workers obtain fake identification. Prosecutors have accused Insolia of exploiting illegal immigrants – mostly women from Guatemala and El Salvador – to maximize his profits on the military contracts to make backpacks and safety vests for soldiers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said 60 immigrants detained were freed within hours of the raid because they were determined to be sole caregivers to their children. But Massachusetts Department of Social Services spokeswoman Denise Monteiro said one 27-year-old woman was held in custody for two nights while her 7-month-old child had to be hospitalized for dehydration because the infant refused to drink baby formula. The mother was released by federal authorities Thursday night.

Those affected by the raid included a 27-day-old infant, Monteiro said.

Frank said he wanted ICE to create written protocols to determine who should be detained and what happens to children left behind after similar raids.

“There was no excuse for their not being absolutely 100 percent certain that children would not be victims,” Frank said.

ICE officials planned the raid for months, and coordinated with local and state agencies, Raimondi said.

“All of our operations are very well planned and coordinated and there’s an extensive amount of planning that they go smoothly,” Raimondi said.

He said ICE continued to work with DSS officials and were not aware of any child left in an inappropriate or risky situation.

“In some instances, humanitarian release may be appropriate. In other cases, consistent with our policy of ending the practice of ‘catch and release,’ illegal aliens will be detained while their court proceedings move forward,” Raimondi said. “These are considerations we take into account every day in enforcement actions across the nation as we continue to uphold our responsibility of enforcing immigration law.”

Hundreds of people still seeking information about their relatives crammed into the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Church, which also was filled with donated goods including diapers, food, baby formula and water.

Delmi Maldonado said her cousin Marta Maldonado, of Honduras, was arrested, leaving a 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.

“We think she’s in Texas, but we don’t know anything,” Maldonado said. “We don’t know if she’s going to be deported. She was a single mom and now her kids are without a parent and are staying with their aunt right now.”

On Tuesday, however, ICE set up a toll free line, with bilingual operators, for family members to determine where relatives may be held, Raimondi said.

DSS Commissioner Harry Spence and dozens of social workers made an emergency trip to Texas this weekend, interviewing 206 workers in detention centers to identify any more with children who had been left parentless.

“As we expected, we are finding adult sole caregivers in Texas locations,” he said Sunday.

He said they identified 10 such parents at the Port Isabel Detention Center, including parents of one child that required a feeding tube. He said workers may have identified another 20 parents in El Paso and were re-interviewing those detainees on Sunday. The agency was petitioning ICE for the parents to be returned to their children.

The parents were mostly single mothers but included fathers as well, he said. The children ranged in age from 2 to 16, and a few had medical conditions that required special care, including one child that required a feeding tube. All were believed to be born in the United States and therefore U.S. citizens.

He said he was incensed that ICE told social workers about the raid, then denied them access when it was occurring because it was a “law enforcement issue.”

He said it took a feverish round of calls by him and other Massachusetts officials to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff before DSS was allowed to talk to parents in detention facilities, first at Fort Devens and now in Texas.

“The federal government has its own child welfare branch, they’re constantly monitoring us,” he said. “This other branch seems to be acting in a totally different way.”

Raimondi said 55 of those detained already had been ordered removed from the country. Eleven others had re-entered the United States after removal, he said.


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