Backdrop for Warren campaign launch is sanctuary city, site of massive fentanyl bust

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is set to formally launch her presidential campaign on Saturday -- and is doing so in a sanctuary city that made headlines last year over a drug bust that netted enough fentanyl to “kill half the state.”

Warren will make her announcement in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a place that The Associated Press describes as “a faded mill city that’s one of New England’s poorest and most heavily Latino.”

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The Warren campaign is eyeing Lawrence as a place where families fought back against mill owners who sought to slash wages in 1912.

“Lawrence has a history of working people coming together to make change, where the fight was hard the battle was uphill and where a group of women led the charge for all of us,” Warren said in a video.

Where Warren will speak, the steps of the Everett Mills, workers once held labor strikes to protest conditions and wages in what became known as the “Bread and Roses” strike.

But in the 21st century, Lawrence is a so-called sanctuary city, in that it limits cooperation with federal immigration agencies to provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. Lawrence has been picked out by name by President Trump and others as a hub for the drug trade -- an issue tied up with the border, through which many illegal drugs flow.

“Lawrence is a clearinghouse for illegal drugs pouring into New Hampshire and Maine,” United States Attorney Andrew Lelling said in October after a major bust that saw 50 arrested on weapons, drugs and immigration charges.

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The Boston Herald reported that over 20 pounds of fentanyl were seized, that authorities said was enough to kill half of Massachusetts. Thirteen illegal immigrants were arrested in the raid.

The two sides of the coin to Lawrence’s history of immigration taps into the ongoing debate in Washington over the subject of immigration -- with Democrats pointing to America’s history as a “nation of immigrants” and the benefits of immigration, and Republicans pointing to the present danger of an unsecure border and illegal immigration.

"The Lawrence kick-off underscores Elizabeth Warren's full embrace of sanctuary policies that have brought 22 million illegals, MS-13, deadly heroin and fentanyl that destroys our communities," Paul Babeu, former Republican sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, told Fox News. "She has no clue that over 90 percent of heroin, all the fentanyl and most of the illegals in Lawrence come from our unsecured border with Mexico."

But the decision to pick Lawrence as the site for her campaign launch is in line with her presentation of herself as an economic populist fighting for the working and middle classes against the rich and big banks and corporations. She announced last month her plan to impose a "wealth tax" on Americans with more than $50 million in assets.

But amid what is likely to be a packed 2020 Democratic presidential field, Warren has struggled to shake the controversy over her past claims to have Native American heritage -- and recently apologized to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry.

A source familiar with the Warren campaign’s planning for the announcement confirmed to Fox News that Rep. Joe Kennedy will introduce the senator at the event.

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.