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Remembering The Michael Bianco Inc. Raid

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Ashley Bendiksen
by Ashley Bendiksen

On the morning of March 6th, 2007 the lives of children and families were ripped apart at the hands of federal immigration agents.  The incident made national news coverage, but its harsh impact occurred right in our own backyard.  On that morning, Michael Bianco Inc., a highly established leather factory, was raided by an army of 300 immigration officials. During the raid, 361 illegal workers were arrested and detained.  Since then, opposing opinions have been at the forefront of the immigration debate. However today, reflecting on the raid doesn’t just speak to the issue of illegal immigrants.  It brings to light something far more challenging – how the issue should be handled.

“But they were illegal…” Is this the only narrow thought in peoples’ minds?  While illegality was certainly the primary focus of the raid, there was an entire failure to see the moral and social issues involved.  These were people with families and children to feed.  At the time, immigration officials addressed specific provisions they had made to ensure that children were not left alone. Then, a few days later Massachusetts’  Governor Deval Patrick categorized the raid and its aftermath as a “humanitarian crisis.” Most of the arrested workers left behind families that were dependent on them.  A large majority were women, leaving children stranded at day-care centers, at school, or with the babysitter.  For days, many children were without homes, while no other family members existed to claim guardianship over them. Two infants were hospitalized two days later for dehydration from lack of their mother’s nursing.

Michael Bianco Raid on March 6th, 2007. Associated Press (AP) Photo
Michael Bianco Raid on March 6th, 2007. Associated Press (AP) Photo

Adding to that failure, the workers of Michael Bianco Inc. faced incomprehensible harassment. Immigrants whom were present shared chilling stories of what happened during the raid.  According to witness accounts, immigration agents charged into the factory, screaming and yelling for the workers to turn their machines off.  Many were scared and confused, while others knew exactly what was happening.  They attempted to flee the scene and failed.  Not only were there officials inside the factory, but helicopters monitored those fleeing on foot from overhead.

Workers were beaten to the ground, and handcuffed.  Men and women sat on the floor for hours, watching as agents gave each other ‘high-fives’ and congratulated themselves on their ‘success.’  One woman recalled asking for water after nearly seven hours of waiting. She was given one small water bottle to share with twelve other people.  Later, she states, “I saw that a girl had fainted.  She was on the floor.  She was on the floor and everyone ignored her.  Then she sat up and they put a box in between her legs and she vomited and vomited into the box.  After all this, they took her to Boston, but people say they took her to Houston.  They handcuffed her hands and feet and put her on the plane and they tied her waist.  They treat us like as if we were murderers.”

What can we gain from this? This incident proves that despite advancements in the debate, harsh, cruel, and inhumane treatment exists.   We can scream “But they were illegal” until we’re blue in the face.  Whatever our opinions are, they shouldn’t justify the acts that took place on March 6th. Lives were destroyed, families were torn apart, and countless numbers of children were left abandoned.  Harsh enforcement will only encourage illegal citizens to remain silent and hide in the shadows. So many barriers exist and trying to ask why someone remains illegal is pointless. What we need to do is question our response to the inevitability of illegal immigration.  We need a plan that supports a pathway for legalization. We need to promote ethical and moral treatment as crucial building blocks for change. If the Bianco workers were illegal, fine, take action… But what happened on March 6th at the Bianco factory went beyond simply enforcing the law.  We need to act, but this can’t be the only way.

A Note From The Author 3/6/14:

This article was meant to provide an additional perspective on the issue. And in fact, I believe that these individuals SHOULD face legal sanctions. I do not condone illegal immigrants hiding in the shadows of our neighborhoods, however the article is meant to highlight why perhaps, these individuals remain in hiding. They fear entering the system, for the fear that they will be abused, mistreated, and tossed out of the country – back to lives and places that we in America often can never begin to comprehend. The “stigma” that today exists across America is what causes law enforcement agents and administrators to respond in such a way. This ‘let’s catch em and show em a lesson’ mentality is woven into the very notion of “illegal immigrants.” As a result, people are mistreated – as in this case, terribly – and what results is a violation of basic humanity. So again, I reiterate, I do believe these individuals should be held accountable, however no child should be abandoned nor should any person be beaten, handcuffed, and spat upon by those who are supposed to uphold to the highest standards of virtue in our nation. No one, especially not myself, has said anyone breaking a law in our country should get a free pass. We need to change the response and the handling of the issue. That’s it.

Sources/further reading:

MIRA – Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
Abraham, Y. The Boston Globe Local Updates, Boston.com
Shulman, R. Immigration Raid Rips Families, Washington Post

About Ashley Bendiksen

Proud Southcoast, seaside native; Advocate for women's empowerment, leadership and success with special interest and expertise in writing, social media, PR, and communications; Lover of books, life, and all things fabulous.

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8 comments

  1. Ashley it’s obvious from reading this article that you’ve never had the luxury of police intervention. They have a job to do, to secure the area as well as gaining complete control of the suspects, pending further investigation. That said, they did what they were supposed to do. The illegals netted in the raid should have been deported back to their home countries IMMEDIATELY following the raid, and given the choice whether to have their families join them or remain behind. The simple fact that so many knowingly put their young children at severe risk, is tantamount to negligence on their part, and not the fault of the U.S. justice system. In closing, I would say that we need positive enforcement of existing legislation, instead of amnesty for those who already broke the law.

  2. To add to my initial comment, this article begs the question: When does “news reporting” become “editorial/opinion”? It seems that this article, though well written should be listed as and editorial or opinion piece as it contains a great amount of personal opinion. Some may argue it contains more opinion than fact, which illustrates my point.

  3. Pretty face with poor judgment . Seems like a reoccurring theme in the world . Honey you should go save some dolphins or some monkeys

  4. Derek G. Mello - East Freetown

    As I read this article I did for a moment have a second of compassion for the “Children” that were left alone or had little food. However I don’t believe an ounce of compassion should be given to those workers who were here illegally. First off its mentioned in the article that “some knew what was happening and tried to get away” Ask yourself why did they want to get away? Because they knew they didnt belong here. Illegal workers take jobs and benefits away from “Americans” who were either born here or studied and took the citizen test. I have zero compassion for people who illegally enter our country and expect a job, housing, food, medical care, the list could go on.
    In the article its mention how harsh the people were treated. Hmm Let me see lets discuss Kenneth Bea the person sent to a North Korean Camp for 15 years hard labor. How about walking into China asking for a handout and a job, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
    People in this country, need to stop being sympathisers for people that dont want to follow our laws. I have no issue with a person who comes to this country and wants to become a citizen does all the hard work to get that. Then yes give them the benefits.

  5. What happened at the factory was over the top, they could have handled it way better..These people are not murderers they are just people trying to give there children was we have for ours born here, living in the socalled land of the free..They should have brought in translaters gotten names and addresses and given them the opportunity to becomre legal citizens or get new green cards something so that the situation could have been resolved where innocent children were not being left behind wondering where there parents are and ending up scrared and hospitalized, this was one gigantic mess where there was no winners just chaos of mess…Things need to change for people that want to have better lives and come to the united states..we need to have a more open type policy so they dont feel so afraid if there green cards expire of the fear of being deported…Everyone has someone in there family that has come over from another country but yet because some where born here think they are better and yell go back to your own country but remember what would have happened to you if someone had said that to your family member years ago..considering everyone has a member that started the american citizenship by coming here on boats so many years ago..the true Americans as they say are the Indians…what would have happened if they did to your family member what you are doing now to these people….

  6. This article was meant to provide an additional perspective on the issue. And in fact, I believe that these individuals SHOULD face legal sanctions. Whether those sanctions are criminal or civil offenses, well, that’s an entirely different discussion. I do not condone illegal immigrants hiding in the shadows of our neighborhoods, however the article is meant to highlight why perhaps, these individuals remain in hiding. They fear entering the system, for the fear that they will be abused, mistreated, and tossed out of the country – back to lives and places that we in America, many times, could never being to comprehend. The stigma that exists across America is what causes law enforcement agents and administrators to respond in such a way. This ‘let’s catch em and treat em a lesson’ mentality is woven into the very concept of “illegal immigrants.” As a result, people are mistreated – as in this case, terribly – and what results is a violation of basic humanity. So again, I reiterate, I do believe these individuals should be held accountable, however no child should be abandoned nor should any person be beaten, handcuffed, and spat upon by those who are supposed to uphold to the highest standards of virtue in our nation. No one, especially not myself, has said anyone breaking a law in our country should get a free pass. We need to change the response and the handling of the issue. That’s it.

  7. Its too bad the author didn’t develop a passing familiarity with the facts before writing this piece. ICE conducted a raid on a department of defense contractor who was employing illegal aliens. There was a thriving document fraud business going on as well. As pointed out, they went in with nearly as many officers as the number of aliens they sought to detain. This is to reduce the numbers of runners and consequently the numbers of injuries. They were successful. They intervied each of these women and asked if they had kids at home. Those who told the truth were released, and those who lied by saying they had no chidren were detained. This situation was rectified latr when the people told the truth. I am an immigrant advocate, but Im not one of the fly- bys who come in- feign horror about something they know nothing about- and then disappear. I have worked with INS and ICE officers for 25 years. It has always been in an adversarial manner but I have found the vast majority of them to be fair minded and generally sympathetic to the plight of the illegals. Whenever there is a raid like Bianco, or now with the detentions on the southern borders, I hear all the stories. We were beaten, the officers raped us, blah, blah, blah. It is offensive that people jump all over the officers- without knowing the facts- and base their opinions solely on the word of people who came hre in violation of the law.

  8. Ashley, first and foremost, you can neither educate or persuade bias minds. Don’t try .
    Second, adversity builds character and those who have not suffered adversity have been cheated. Too bad for them.
    Third, keep growing there is absolutely no dust on you

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