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Critics: Immigration Raid Retaliatory

Saturday, January 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. —  An e-mail sent by local immigration officials to their agency head the day after the city adopted an ID program for illegal immigrants suggests that the timing of a raid soon thereafter was not coincidental, the city's mayor said.

Regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers told agency Director Julie Myers in a June 5 e-mail that New Haven's Board of Aldermen had voted 25-1 the previous night to make the city the nation's first to offer illegal immigrants ID cards. City officials said the cards would help immigrants better integrate into mainstream culture by allowing them access to bank accounts and other services.

On June 6, ICE agents swept through the city and detained an estimated 30 illegal immigrants. Critics contend that the raid was retaliation for the city's adoption of the ID program _ a charge the agency has steadfastly denied.

In the e-mail to Myers, obtained by The Associated Press through a federal Freedom of Information Act request, agents wrote that because of the recent vote, the raid would likely draw significant news coverage.

"They self-evidently were following what was happening in New Haven," Mayor John DeStefano said. "And at some level it had to have been a factor in their thinking to proceed with the raid. Otherwise why else would they have noted it?"

Yale law professor Michael Wishnie, who is representing those detained free of charge, said that while the e-mail to Myers doesn't prove retaliation, "it does suggest an awareness that doing the raid on June 6 would likely draw attention and they wanted to be prepared to respond to that expected attention. It certainly casts doubt on the statements that the raid had nothing to do with the ID program."

ICE officials have denied accusations that the raid was retaliatory, saying the raid was planned months in advance and that its timing was coincidental. Planning for the raid began in April, and it was initially to have been conducted in May, but records included with the e-mail show the date was pushed back until June for logistical reasons.

"This is something we typically do is to pass on information," said Paula Grenier, an agency spokeswoman.

But DeStefano pointed out that debate over the ID program also lasted months.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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