In the News

Evidence suggests that a person who abuses animals also has a higher likelihood of hurting other people

By: Lynne Peeples

A conviction for domestic violence in the U.S. strips a person of the legal right to possess a gun. It doesn’t matter if the conviction is a misdemeanor or a felony. The rationale for the federal law: Domestic violence is a red flag for future violence — including potentially deadly violence with a firearm.

Scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that a person who abuses animals also has a higher likelihood of hurting other people. And that insight has begun fueling a push, at the state and federal levels, to slap a no-gun penalty on anyone convicted of animal cruelty.

“As we look at some of the recent mass shootings from Columbine to Parkland to Sutherland Springs, these perpetrators had a history of animal abuse. Addressing this pattern of behavior is a part of the solution for preventing gun violence and hopefully saving lives,” said U.S. Rep. Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., who in July introduced a bill focusing on the issue.

Local officials also are recognizing animal abuse as a human safety issue. A partnership between the New York City Police Department and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has more than tripled arrests for animal abuse in New York City since its 2014 launch.

Around the country, at least 75 state and local prosecuting offices have personnel specializing in animal abuse, according to a list provided by the National Link Coalition, an advocacy group formed a decade ago by activists concerned about the apparent connection between animal abuse and family violence. In May, for example, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office began rolling out its Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit. Tracy Prior, deputy district attorney and chief of the office’s Family Protection Division, which is overseeing the new unit, plans to work more closely with law enforcement partners to try to prosecute more animal cruelty crimes.

The logic of such initiatives, as National Link Coalition coordinator Phil Arkow put it, is that “investigating animal cruelty cases aggressively . . . can also stop other violence including child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse.”

Current federal law already bars felons from having a firearm, but many animal cruelty crimes — even those that involve torture and mutilation — are prosecuted as misdemeanors. Clark’s bill  would step up enforcement by forbidding anyone with a misdemeanor conviction for animal cruelty from possessing a gun. Clark is favored to win reelection on Nov. 6, and, if the bill doesn’t pass this year, she plans to reintroduce it in the next Congress.

Similar legislation was introduced earlier this year in New Jersey, and the Illinois State Crime Commission has recommended a state ban on gun ownership by all convicted animal abusers.

The federal and state bills face uphill battles, say law enforcement and public policy experts. Gun rights and farm industry groups have frequently fought animal cruelty legislation. Representatives of Gun Owners of America have registered to lobby on the Clark bill.

Jerry Elsner, executive director of the crime commission in Illinois, said he also expects to encounter strong opposition by gun rights groups. His agency will seek sponsors after next month’s elections for a bill to bar gun possession by convicted animal abusers.

The Illinois State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association fought bills to require the surrender of firearms in domestic violence cases before state and federal bans were adopted.  “People didn’t want guns taken away from wife beaters. That wasn’t popular at all,” said Elsner, a registered Republican. But on the animal abuse legislation, he frames his personal position another way: “I’m not anti-gun, I’m anti-animal abuse.”

Neither rifle association responded to requests for comment on calls to bar gun possession by people convicted of animal cruelty.

Federal law enforcement authorities have started to embrace the notion that animal abuse could presage other crimes. In a July report, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center declared animal abuse a warning sign for “terrorism and other premeditated violence against humans.” They cited research by the FBI, which found that among adults arrested between 2004 and 2009 for committing acts of animal cruelty, about half were subsequently arrested for another crime.

The FBI also began formally tracking animal abuse crimes in 2016 via a new national data collection system.

“It’s going to take three-to-five years, as they collect this new data, to really reveal the clear patterns,” said Clark, the Massachusetts congresswoman. Even so, she said she is confident that existing studies demonstrate that her legislation is needed.

Research has produced some provocative statistics. Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people than non-abusers, according to a study published in 1997 by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Chicago Crime Commission reported in 2004 that 82 percent of offenders arrested for animal abuse had prior convictions for battery, weapons or drugs. Another  study, in 1999, found that 63 percent of aggressive criminals incarcerated in South Africa had deliberately inflicted harm on animals in childhood. And in a study published in July, the FBI concluded that 60 percent of animal cruelty offenders had also engaged in intimate partner violence, with or without guns.

Before he began killing and dismantling humans, Jeffrey Dahmer did the same with animals, researchers found. According to published reports, other mass murderers, including the “Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo, and school shooters such as Kip Kinkel, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, also tortured and killed animals in the years prior to their killing sprees.

Of course, not every child who abuses an animal will go on to carry out heinous acts against people. Clifton Flynn, provost at the University of South Carolina Upstate and author of studies and a book on the topic, pointed to criteria that could identify those at greatest risk of committing violence, such as people with multiple episodes of abuse or who carried out more up-close-and-personal cruelty. “If a kid takes a cat and strangles it until it almost dies, then I’d be worried about that kid — more so than a kid who takes a rifle and shoots a squirrel in a tree 50 yards away,” he said.

John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association and a former police chief in Maryland, said that for 30 years in law enforcement, he was unaware of the link. “I would just call animal control. It wasn’t my problem,” he added. “Law enforcement just doesn’t get it. But that is changing.”

Joye Estes echoed Thompson’s sentiment. She used to investigate sex crimes, child abuse and domestic abuse as an officer with the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky. “I wish I’d had the knowledge about the link back when I was a detective,” said Estes, now a law enforcement investigator for the Jefferson County, Kentucky, public schools.

For 11 consecutive years, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy group, has ranked Kentucky last among U.S. states in the strength of its animal protection laws. Among the reasons: humane officers lack broad enforcement authority and it’s very difficult to bring felony charges against animal abusers. Kentucky is also one of the few states where veterinarians are actually prohibited from reporting abuse, according to Animal Defense Fund reports.

Estes, through a group she co-founded in September, the Kentucky Link Coalition, is seeking to raise awareness of the connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence. “We need to break down silos — to share info between animal control and police and social services,” she said. “Animal cruelty is the most silent crime. Animals never learn to talk, never go to school, never have relatives come to visit or visit friends.”

Meanwhile, more states are passing bills that create — or stiffen — felony provisions for animal cruelty, which could make it easier to bar offenders from possessing guns. In August 2017,  Pennsylvania enacted legislation that added felony-level penalties for first-time aggravated animal cruelty offenses, such as torture.

“Extreme risk protection order” laws are also emerging, which target the gun rights of animal abusers in much the same way as domestic violence offenders. The first such state law, passed in Connecticut in 1999, provides police officers the power to temporarily take away an individual’s guns based on a history of violent acts, drug abuse or animal cruelty. A bill that took effect in Oregon in January now gives a judge the power to weigh factors including convictions for domestic violence or animal cruelty in deciding whether to order a temporary surrender of firearms.

“Based on what we know about those who perpetrate animal cruelty,” said Flynn, “there are good reasons to keep guns out of their hands.”


Original story here.

By: Jessica Bartlett

Massachusetts Democratic Congresswoman Katherine Clark found herself an unlikely ally in President Donald Trump on Wednesday, when he signed into law two of her bills aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic.

The bills address two sides of the crisis. One is meant to combat a shortage of employees in substance use disorder treatment centers by offering loan repayment for health care professionals who work in the field. The other will require all prescriptions for controlled substances prescribed to Medicare beneficiaries to be electronically prescribed by 2021.

Both bills were drafted by Clark's office, and received bipartisan support. Clark spoke with the Boston Business Journal about the legislation in the wake of Trump's signing.

Where did the ideas for these two bills originate?
Both of these bills came from conversations with families and health care providers in my district. Whether I’m meeting families after town halls or office hours throughout my district, I hear the same heartbreaking story. People (are) looking for treatment for their loved one and are having a hard time accessing the help they need. At the same time, I’ve had discussions with treatment providers in my district, in Arlington and Waltham and also in other parts of Massachusetts, where their concern is being able to recruit and retain treatment providers for their programs. If we can increase the workforce, then we feel we can give families better access to the help they need and deserve.

What (the first) bill does, which was part of a comprehensive opioid package signed by the President, was create a student loan repayment program, where the first day you go to work as a treatment provider in a range of roles we want to be able to support, from social workers to doctors, you get your student loans paid for that year up to $250,000 in total benefits if you work six years in a treatment program.

We’ve seen other student loan-based programs be successful, and this work is work people want to do. Help with student loans can make what are low-paying wages go further, and can allow people to stay and have the incentive to stay for a good period of time.

Where will the funding come from?
The money will come out of the budget. It will flow through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and we hope it will be available in roughly a year from now, in 2020.

What’s the total cost of this program?
In this legislation, there is funding for the first five years at $125 million.

President Trump also signed a law mandating electronic prescribing. How did you build bipartisan support for it?
We were able to put together bipartisan support and we got a cosponsor, a Republican from Oklahoma (Markwayne Mullin). He reps a part of Oklahoma ravaged by opioids as much as Massachusetts. I’ve found that the work around the opioid crisis has been an area where we can build relationships and work across the aisle. It’s affecting so many of our communities across the country.

This bill also came out of discussions with health care providers and advocates in my district, but it’s applicable across the country. We know this crisis started at the prescription pad and we’re still battling an oversupply of opioids in our community. What this bill would do would be to require, by the next two years, that if you’re a prescriber for Medicare part D, that prescriptions be done electronically. We think this is a great way for the federal government to support providers in giving good care for their patients, while at the same time reducing fraud and doctor-shopping in the Medicare system.

How does this complement Massachusetts’ work on the prescription monitoring program?
This is a great start and we hope (it) will be complementary to states efforts to move to e-prescribing and use the best technology we have to help us reduce the oversupply of opioids in our communities and neighborhoods.

The problem is getting states to talk to one another. The effectiveness of having a Medicare system builds a national database so our health care providers can best understand where there are signs of abuse and fraud, so we can all help get patients the care they need, the management for their pain when necessary, but cut down on where we find people using the system, crossing state lines, getting additional prescriptions fraudulently, and redistributing the opioids legally obtained, then being sold and abused on a different level.

Were you surprised Trump signed legislation that originated from a Massachusetts Democrat?
We’re always heartened when we’re able to function the way Congress should, that the problems and challenges families bring to me that we can put together commonsense solutions and they actually become law. That’s the way Congress is supposed to function. Too often, we feel the voices of families back home get drowned out by special interests. I think this is a moment to celebrate. We were able to pass a comprehensive package that we hope will give tools and resources to families and health care providers and to states to address this public health crisis. While they are all commonsense provisions (that are) much needed, it’s always a legislative process that has a lot of ups and downs before you get to the final product. We were delighted to see both of these provisions included and come through the bill with the funding attached.


Original story here.

By: Shannon Young

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, touted a new federal law Thursday that seeks to combat the opioid abuse crisis by ensuring better tracking of Medicare prescriptions and helping treatment providers recruit and retain staff.

Clark, who has pushed to address shortages in substance use disorder treatment staff and the oversupply of opioids through electronic prescribing, praised the measures' inclusion in the bipartisan-backed "SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act" that President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday.

"Both of these bills originated in conversations that I have had throughout my district with families, with health care providers -- whether that's in Arlington, or Framingham or Waltham -- and it is very gratifying to see their concerns that they brought to me end up in a law that is going to be so positive," she said in an interview.

The Massachusetts congresswoman called the wide-ranging bill package a "major step forward in delivering families across the country resources and relief they so badly need."

The workforce measure, which Clark and Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers introduced as the "Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act" earlier this year, seeks to encourage more people to enter the substance abuse disorder treatment field by offering student loan repayment to those who agree to work in high-need areas -- places with a shortage of mental health professionals or a high rate of drug overdose deaths.

To qualify, participants must agree to work in full-time substance use disorder treatment jobs in high-need areas for up to six years. Eligible positions include direct patient care roles such as physicians, registered nurses, social workers and therapists, among others.

The congresswoman said the proposal, which allows eligible participants to seek real-time repayments of up to $250,000, came in direct response to workforce concerns raised by treatment providers and constituents across Massachusetts.

"I have heard from so many families in my district about how difficult and heartbreaking it is not being able to find treatment for their loved one," she said. "The provision that will provide student loan forgiveness for those professionals who go into providing treatment for substance abuse disorder is going to go along way to helping us recruit and retain the workforce that is necessary to provide good access for treatment and recovery for those who are so affected by the opiate crisis."

Clark added that she will be pushing federal officials to ensure the provision is enacted as soon as possible to prevent further workforce issues.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates about 10 percent of Americans with substance use disorders receive treatment. Experts have attributed that low percentage, in part, to the lack of providers.

Despite a 2014 federal push to grow the behavioral health workforce, that gap is expected to grow in the coming years, with SAMHSA projecting significant shortages of psychiatrists, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and substance abuse social workers by 2025.

Clark's "Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act," meanwhile, will require all controlled substance prescriptions for Medicare beneficiaries to be transmitted electronically by 2021 so officials can better track and secure opioid distribution.

The proposal stemmed from a 2016 Health and Human Services Inspector General report, which found one in three beneficiaries had received at least one prescription opioid through Medicare Part D, nearly 70,000 Part D beneficiaries received "extreme amounts" of opioids and 22,000 beneficiaries "appeared to be doctor shopping" to obtain multiple prescription.

Clark, who noted that states with such technology have seen reductions in "doctor shopping" and in the loss and theft of prescription pads, said the measure will allow providers and prescribers "to better serve their patients."

The bill package, which cleared Congress with broad based support, includes several previously-passed House measures that seek to combat opioid abuse through Medicaid and Medicare coverage changes, among other things.

Specifically, the legislation calls for: Expanding Medicare coverage of opioid treatment programs and medication-assisted treatment, allowing more providers to treat opioid use disorder patients with Buprenorphine and mandating Medicaid coverage of all forms of medication-assisted treatment.
It further includes language to: Permanently allow physicians to treat up to 275 patients with Buprenorphine; provide consistent Medicaid coverage for at-risk youth; expand Medicaid coverage for foster youth until age 26; give the Federal Trade Commission stronger enforcement tools when bringing cases against companies that prey on individuals with opioid use disorders; and reauthorize and strengthen the Office of National Drug Control Policy, among other things.

Although Clark lauded the bill's inclusion of funding for her proposed student loan repayment program, the Massachusetts Democrat argued that more money is needed to support other provisions contained in the bill package.

"More funding is critical as we look at all the provisions in this bill, many of which are very worthy and will go a long way," she said. "But we need a commitment from Congress and from the president to put the funding behind these provisions so we can get money to states, health care providers and programs."


Original story here.

By: U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark

Since 1935, Americans have relied on Social Security upon retirement. Today, almost two-thirds of seniors count on Social Security for most of their income and another one-third for the entirety of it. Equally fundamental to the financial protection of seniors is Medicare, which provides access to health care for 49 million Americans annually.

While these programs support the security of our expanding senior population, Republicans are rapidly marching forward with their decades-long campaign to dismantle both. Even more incredibly, they’re using their deficit-exploding tax bill as their justification to do so. The party of so-called “fiscal responsibility” added $2 trillion to the national deficit to pay for the $1.3 trillion in tax cuts they gifted corporations and America’s wealthiest one percent. Now, they want to balance the budget with your hard-earned benefits.

They weren’t shy about this strategy either. Immediately after the tax bill passed, House Speaker Paul Ryan stated, “We’re going to have to get back to entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

In June, Republicans released a proposal that would raise the retirement age from 66 to 67 for retirees born after 1960 and prohibit recipients from receiving unemployment benefits and Social Security disability insurance concurrently. It would privatize Medicare replacing the current system with fixed payments that recipients would use to independently purchase health plans. It would also repeal benefit improvements passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, including closing the Part D coverage gap that has saved Medicare beneficiaries more than $20 billion on prescription drugs since 2010.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is charged with measuring the economic impact of legislation, found that these “reforms” would only cut federal spending if they also increased costs to beneficiaries. The GOP plan would increase the average premium by 50 percent, causing some beneficiaries to purchase private coverage and driving up costs for the oldest, frailest, and most ill. That is, any savings these changes would result in would be at the expense of seniors that simply cannot afford it.

Americans have paid into Social Security and Medicare through a lifetime of work, with the promise that they would be available when they needed them. By labeling Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” that need to be reformed Republicans are trying to convince us that these lifesavings programs are government hand-outs. In reality, Republicans want to break commitments made through Social Security and Medicare so they can fund the trillions of dollars of giveaways to the super-wealthy and big corporations.

It is true that Americans are living longer and that we need to adapt these programs to better align with our modern economy and demographics. While Social Security has been paying for itself since day one, runs with a $2.8 trillion surplus and is solvent for another 17 years, we do need a long-term plan that ensures generations in the future can rely on this fundamental support system. This process needs to be honest, transparent and reflect the true mission of these programs. Using the GOP tax scam to threaten the livelihood of older Americans is not the way forward.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark represents the Massachusetts 5th Congressional District


Original story here.

By: Amanda McGowan

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court ushers in a "dangerous time" for the nation's highest court, Representative Katherine Clark said Tuesday.

Kavanaugh was sworn in Monday after a bitter and protracted confirmation process, which included an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the nominee and an emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school.

Clark told Boston Public Radio that she found Ford's allegations "credible" and that Kavanaugh's testimony gave her "extreme concern."

"I thought [Ford] was credible and brave in the way that she testified, and I thought that [Kavanaugh's] reaction gave me extreme concern for where we're headed, not just with this nominee but also as a Supreme Court, where we need to maintain the integrity and the nonpartisanship of that court," Clark told Boston Public Radio.

"His reaction, especially the way he was so rude to the Senators and throwing their questions back at them, just really, I think we're in a dangerous time for the Supreme Court," Clark continued.

Clark also addressed the possibility of the House conducting an investigation against Kavanaugh should Democrats retake that chamber this fall. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is in line to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee should the Democrats win a majority, said last week that the committee could expand the scope of the FBI's investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.

"It may be right to investigate. That may be called for as we learn more," Clark said.


Original story here.

By: Alysha Palumbo, Monica Madeja and Karla Rendon-Alvarez

A day after saying they expected service to be fully restored by Tuesday, National Grid and Woburn officials announced that some affected customers would not have their natural gas service restored until Thursday.

According to a spokesperson, National Grid crews completed service shutdowns for 300 customers in the Lowell and Wyman streets area overnight and assessments Tuesday morning.

Crews are now starting the process of reintroducing gas service into the system for the 300 affected customers, the spokesperson said, a process which could take until Thursday to complete.

Hundreds of gas meters in Woburn were shut off due to an overpressurization issue around noon on Monday. The incident served as a scary reminder to Woburn residents of the Sept. 13 gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, as three communities continue to recover from a series of devastating gas explosions that killed one person, injured 25 others and damaged properties.

"We almost had a catastrophe here," Woburn resident Robert Deane said. "Thank God they caught it just in time."

National Grid says a worker doing routine maintenance in the affected area accidentally introduced extra gas to the system. The utility company said the error was fixed within minutes and the situation is under control.

"The crew quickly recognized the error and within minutes, reduced the system to normal operating pressures," National Grid said in a statement. "The area is safe, and National Grid has the situation under control."

Crews went door to door to check gas levels and turn off meters to every home in the affected area Monday. No residents were evacuated and everyone was safe.

"They're saying that everything’s good," said resident Roxane Mogauro. “Don't panic. That’s what he said. And of course, I panicked."

Resident Ruth Kichton said the Merrimack Valley gas explosions were the "first thing" that she thought of when she heard the news about the overpressurization incident.

"That was frightful," she said.


Original story here.

By: Alena Sadiq

House Democrats and civil society organizations are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reconsider the State Department’s exclusion of reproductive rights from its annual human rights reports.

Their letters noted that since 2011 these country-specific reports have included detailed information about women’s access to contraception and abortion across the world. This precedent was broken in the 2017 reports, as first reported by POLITICO in February. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the subsection on gender-based violence was also trimmed down.

Ninety-seven civil society organizations have signed a letter calling on Pompeo to immediately restore the human rights reports to their previous form.

“Governments do not get to pick and choose whose rights will be respected,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We are already suing the Department of State for documents pertaining to the Department’s decision to delete the reproductive rights section and seeking copies of the full Human Rights Reports prior to the last-minute cuts.”

In a separate letter, 129 House Democrats have demanded that Pompeo ensure that the section on reproductive rights be included in future reports. These reports help Congress evaluate requests for foreign aid as well as assess legislation that may have foreign policy implications. Rights activists and non-governmental organizations also rely on these reports.

“By omitting reproductive rights from its annual Human Rights Reports, the Administration is further signaling that it does not recognize women’s rights as human rights,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The members have also asked the State Department to provide them with all internal and external correspondence that led to this decision. Additionally, they want to know which officials were involved in making this decision. Earlier this year, POLITICO reported that the move was ordered by a top aide of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The Department’s 2017 report was a giant step backwards for women and demonstrated a total disregard for our safety, rights, and autonomy here and around the globe,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “Documenting and reporting human rights violations is a major component of eradicating their existence. The Trump administration cannot get away with trying to quietly tolerate these inhumanities by sweeping them under the rug.”

When reached for comment, a spokesperson said the State Department will respond to the letters in due course.

The report for 2018 is expected to be released in early 2019.


Original story here.

If you’re raising kids in the Boston area, you probably won’t be surprised that this is one of the most expensive places for child care in the country.

Even if her party wins control in Congress, Clark is still embarking on a somewhat quixotic quest. She will need to jockey for attention amid a crowded list of priorities for the House Dems -- one that includes curbing drug costs, getting public infrastructure built, and reforming campaign finance rules. Clark will also need more allies in Congress, and in the business community.

Then there’s the cost: an estimated $40 billion a year, or more. Clark hinted that the recent corporate tax cut could be pared back to help pay for it. But it’s never politically easy to take back a tax cut. To Clark, it’s all about priorities. The staggering cost of child care comes up frequently on the campaign trail. She says investing in early childhood education can pay off in the end: Parents have more freedom to go back to work, children get enriching experiences in formative years, and lower-paid workers could see salary increases.

Maybe her idea gets scaled back, or incorporated in some form within someone else’s legislation. Maybe it doesn’t get much further than it did last year. It’s problematic that child care costs can add up more quickly than college tuition. At least, Clark says, she is getting people to talk about finding a solution.


Original story here.

By Maria Cramer

All nine of Massachusetts’ representatives in the US House called on the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday to direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents not to arrest unauthorized immigrants when they appear at government offices for appointments about their applications for legal residency.

“We all have an interest in bringing these individuals out of the shadows and under the law, so we should not be deterring them from utilizing the very process the federal government has established for this purpose,” the letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stated. “The fear of detention, regardless of how frequently it actually takes place, discourages members of our community from resolving their immigration status.”

The letter was sent one day before a federal judge is scheduled to resume hearings on a lawsuit against the agency filed by five immigrants and their spouses. It was signed by US Representatives Seth Moulton, James P. McGovern, Richard E. Neal, Katherine Clark, Niki Tsongas, Stephen Lynch, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Michael E. Capuano, and William R. Keating.

The lawsuit asks Judge Mark Wolf to order Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston not to arrest and detain immigrants seeking legal residency through their American relatives, specifically those who may qualify for provisional waivers put in place by the Department of Homeland Security that are meant to keep immigrants with their American families while their residency applications are processed.

On Aug. 14, lawyers for the immigrants submitted e-mails between ICE and US Customs and Immigration Services, the agency that processes residency and citizenship, that showed the two agencies were communicating with each other about visits from immigrants with final orders of removal.

Those immigrants would arrive for meetings scheduled by immigration officials, who then told ICE when to arrive so they could arrest them. In some cases, the immigrants were arrested after they were told they had been approved for an I-130, the first step for an immigrant trying to seek legal residency through an American relative.

The practice also occurred during the Obama administration, immigration attorneys say, but the revelation of the e-mails has sparked fury among political leaders in Massachusetts who said ICE should focus on immigrants who pose a threat to public safety, not immigrants trying to legalize their status.

“We are particularly concerned about the chilling effect the threat of detention will have on those who are working to resolve their immigration status,” the delegation members wrote. “There is a clear and compelling interest in encouraging the timely and proper resolution of ongoing cases with USCIS, and ICE should not hinder that effort.”

In May, Thomas Brophy, then the interim director of the Boston ICE field office, told Wolf during a hearing that ICE was no longer arresting immigrants at USCIS offices and that officers had been directed to focus on immigrants who posed a public safety threat.

Brophy was subsequently replaced by Rebecca Adducci, who told Wolf in June that ICE could not “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement” without violating President Trump’s executive order.

An ICE spokesman has defended the collaboration between ICE and USCIS as a “routine coordination” needed to enforce immigration laws.

The letter from the Massachusetts delegation called on Homeland Security to “reverse” back to Brophy’s directive.

In court Tuesday, Adducci and Todd Lyons, who took over as ICE field office director on Sunday, told Wolf no one had been arrested at USCIS offices since February, when the lawsuit was filed, and that agents have been focused on criminal offenders. The Boston field office covers all of New England.

But lawyers for the immigrants said during the same hearing that ICE arrested a Polish man seeking legal residency through his wife at his Connecticut home in March and detained him for two months.


Original story here.