RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Massachusetts officials are scrambling to find care for dozens of children whose parents have been detained as suspected illegal immigrants.
Immigration and customs enforcement agents raided a garment factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, taking in more than 300 undocumented workers who were sewing, among other things, backpacks and vests for the U.S. military. Reporter Brian Ballou has been covering the story for the Boston Globe and he joins us on the line. Good morning.
BRIAN BALLOU: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: You got to this factory the morning the raid took place. What did you see?
BALLOU: Well, there were several dozen relatives of some of the workers that were just waiting intensively behind the police barricades waiting for the relatives to come out.
MONTAGNE: What did you find out about what was actually happening in the factory?
BALLOU: Well inside, people had basically just settled into their jobs, you know, in front of the sewing machines, working on whatever garments. And there was an announcement over the public address system of the factory, and she told people basically to stop working, stay where they were. Some of the workers thought it was a fire alarm while others immediately knew what it was, what was happening, and they made a mad rush for the exits. By that time, numerous immigration and enforcement officials were manning the exits, the windows. They stopped them, grabbed them, ordered them to the ground. They placed plastic handcuffs on some of these people. And we heard that a couple of people, a couple of workers, actually escaped and spent several hours hiding in the basement.
MONTAGNE: And more than 300 people were detained. How is New Bedford dealing with the situation?
BALLOU: The mayor, he addressed some of the relatives of the people that were detained last night in the basement of St. James Church in New Bedford, telling them that he is working with elected officials who were in contact with immigrations and customs to make sure that those relatives have a way to talk with their detained family members.
MONTAGNE: Now I gather that many of these allegedly illegal immigrants are from Guatemala and El Salvador. And as we said, children have been left without their parents. What is happening to these children?
BALLOU: We heard that at least 29 children have been placed in foster care. And on Wednesday night they had in the basement of this church, some social workers had collected at least 70 names of family members who have been detained who basically just left the children or they had children at home. So we're talking about - if some of these family members had at least one child, possibly more, we're talking about at least 70 children that have been, you know, over the last couple of days without a parent.
MONTAGNE: And if the workers are deported, or if they're even charged with crimes, what about the kids?
BALLOU: The kids, depending upon whether they were born in the country - I mean, their status remains unclear. I talked to several women who have been released who indicated that, you know, even if they were deported or if they are going to get deported, they're going to bring their children with them. The children's status remains unclear at this point.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
BALLOU: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Brian Ballou of the Boston Globe.