US: Massachusetts judge charged with helping man evade ICE

Charges mark latest skirmish over immigration enforcement between Trump and local gov’ts that resist his crackdown.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas [File: LM Otero/AP Photo]
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas 

US federal prosecutors on Thursday charged a Massachusetts judge and court officer with conspiracy and obstruction, saying they blocked an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)officer from arresting an undocumented immigrant at a 2018 court proceeding.

The charges mark the latest skirmish over immigration enforcement between US President Donald Trump‘s administration and local governments that have resisted his crackdown.

The charges target Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Joseph, 51, and Massachusetts Trial Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, who came under federal investigation last year after authorities said the duo schemed to let the man escape from the Newton court.

ICE intended to arrest the unidentified suspected undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic facing a drug charge.

They described a huddled conversation between the judge and the defendant’s lawyer in which Joseph asks, “ICE is gonna get him?” and later says, “I’m not gonna allow them to come in here”.

Joseph then arranged for the suspect to be released through the court’s rear door while the ICE agent waited in the court room’s lobby for him to emerge.

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MacGregor was also charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury that heard evidence on the case.

Not a political message

Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said the case was not intended to send a political message.

“We did not bring this case in response to the public debate over immigration enforcement,” he said. “This is isn’t a policy seminar, it’s a law enforcement action.”

Representatives of the judge and court officer did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters news agency.

The state Supreme Judicial Court suspended Joseph without pay following the charges, noting its move “in no way reflects any opinion on the merits of the pending criminal case”.

The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The suspect has since been caught and is now in federal custody.

Massachusetts’s top court in 2017 ruled that state police cannot detain undocumented immigrants solely to buy time for federal officials to take them into custody.

Trump says he may ‘call up more’ troops to the US-Mexico border

One of Trump’s top priorities in office has been cracking down on undocumented immigration and he has regularly railed against “sanctuary” cities and states that do not cooperate with all aspects of federal immigration enforcement.

Trump earlier this month floated the idea of busing undocumented migrants stopped at the border to “sanctuary cities”, a move that critics called illustrative of the White House’s callous approach to the issue and some Trump allies called impractical.

Trump Admin to Spend $40 MILLION on New Immigration Detention Camps

APR 19, 2019

H2 immigration detention camps tent cities southern texas

The Trump administration is planning to spend $40 million to build a pair of tent cities to imprison migrant families—including children—in southern Texas. Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday the camps would be temporary, calling them part of a strategy to ease strain on Border Patrol agents in El Paso and at other U.S. ports of entry. Critics say the move is aimed at indefinitely detaining whole families in squalid conditions, in a further bid to deter migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.


Members of group giving food, water to migrants convicted of misdemeanors.

Four members of the group No More Deaths face a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a possible $500 fine.

Four humanitarian aid volunteers were convicted of misdemeanor charges on Friday after leaving food and water for migrants crossing a remote wildlife refuge on the United States-Mexico border in 2017.

Image: Scott Warren
Scott Warren’s trial is due to begin in May.Arizona State University

Four other volunteers with the group No More Deaths are set to go on trial next month and in March over similar charges, the organization said.

A ninth volunteer, Scott Warren, also faces felony harboring and concealment charges after allegedly providing food, water, beds and clean clothes to two undocumented immigrants last year. His trial is scheduled to begin in May.

In Friday’s decision, United State District Court Judge Bernardo Velasco said the volunteers — Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco — hadn’t obtained permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta Refuge and Wilderness Area or followed the Department of Interior’s rules while they were there.

They face a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a possible $500 fine.

No More Death has described the food and water its volunteers leave for the migrants in the 860,000-acre refuge, located west of Tucson, Arizona, as life-saving.

In a news release, the group said that 155 people are known to have died in the area since 2001.

“This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country,” one of the group’s volunteers, Catherine Gaffney, said in a statement. “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”

Last year, No More Deaths published videos of apparent border agents kicking and emptying water jugs that its volunteers had left in the desert. A report that was co-authored with La Coalición de Derechos Humanos documented what No More Deaths described as the “intentional destruction” of more than 3,000 gallons of water.

Video shows border agents dumping water left for migrants

“If anybody sees any activities like the ones seen in the videos, they need to inform us so we can take the corrective action because it’s not acceptable,” he said.

As punishment, the refuge’s law enforcement officer could have admonished or banned the volunteers from the refuge, Velasco wrote. But in this case, he added, the Department of Interior and Department of Justice authorized their prosecution.

In addition to not obtaining entry permits, Velasco wrote, the volunteers did not remain on designated roads and they left food, water and crates in the refuge — moves that erode the area’s “pristine nature,” he wrote.

“No one in charge of No More Deaths ever informed them that their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal defense,” Velasco wrote. “The Court can only speculate as to what the Defendants’ decisions would have been had they known the actual risk of their undertaking.”

By Tim Stelloh, NBC

Watchdog: Trump Admin Vastly Underreported Migrant Family Separations

JAN 18, 2019

H1 migrant families

The Trump administration likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border than previously reported. That’s the conclusion of the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, which said in a report Thursday that efforts to track those children have been so spotty that the exact number of family separations is unknown. Last summer, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite families separated by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy along the southern border; but the inspector general’s report makes clear that many migrant families weren’t identified and reunited as part of the judge’s order.

Arizona: Prosecutors to Investigate Child Abuse at Immigrant Prison

JAN 02, 2019

H5 immigrant prison child abuse

In Arizona, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office referred apparent evidence of abuse at a children’s immigration prison to prosecutors Monday. Last week, a local publication posted surveillance video, reportedly dating from September, from the Hacienda Del Sol detention center in Youngtown, showing staffers dragging, slapping and pushing children. The facility, run by Southwest Key, was shut down at the end of October. The Arizona Department of Health Services had accused Southwest Key in September of failing to provide evidence of staff background checks.

Border Patrol Agents Detain Migrants Near US-Mexico Border

Without Notifying Anyone, ICE Dumps Hundreds of Migrants at El Paso Bus Station Around Christmas!

DECEMBER 27, 2018

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have ordered medical checks on every child in its custody, following the death of two Guatemalan children in recent weeks. On Christmas Eve, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy named Felipe Gómez Alonso died in New Mexico while in CBPcustody. This follows the death of a 7-year-old indigenous Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died on December 8—also in New Mexico—two days after she and her father presented themselves at the border in a bid for asylum. Meanwhile, authorities in El Paso, Texas, scrambled over the Christmas holiday to assist hundreds of migrant asylum seekers who were dropped off suddenly by ICE officials outside a Greyhound bus terminal without any plan to house them. We speak with Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, an El Paso-based charity that assists migrants.

7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies in U.S. Border Agents’ Custody of dehydration.

She was only seven.

DEC 14, 2018

H3 migrant detention kids obsure

A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl has died of dehydration and shock while in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. She was detained last Thursday along with her father and other migrants who crossed into the country in a remote section of New Mexico. She was brought to the hospital only after her body temperature was over 105 degrees. Cynthia Pompa of the ACLU said, “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for [Customs and Border Protection]. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”