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THE WAR ON IMMIGRANTS
The feds wonít back down
BY KRISTEN LOMBARDI

Ask US Attorney Michael Sullivan why he refuses to drop the criminal charges against the " Logan 19 " ó the 19 immigrants formerly employed at Logan International Airport, who were arrested in the federal sweep known as Operation Tarmac (see " Waging War Against a Bunch of Immigrants, " News and Features, May 10) ó and he will offer no apologies. Indeed, as far as Bostonís top federal prosecutor is concerned, he alone determines how far to prosecute these Haitian, Latino, and African immigrants who toiled as janitors and baggage checkers ó and heís decided to pursue the charges to the fullest.

That, at least, sums up the stance conveyed by Sullivan last week, when the US attorney met with advocates from local labor, civil-rights, and immigrant-rights groups who were demanding that he halt the continued prosecution of the Logan 19. " He opened the meeting [by] stating that he wasnít a cold-hearted man, " says Marion Traub-Werner, one of the 22 advocates who attended the private July 3 meeting. " But he finished by saying we should have no false hope. He has made his decision. "

The federal charges against the Logan 19 ó which allege the workers supplied false information to obtain low-wage jobs ó amount to minor violations that the federal government rarely prosecuted before September 11. Since Operation Tarmac was launched last December, US attorneys nationwide have dropped or reduced criminal charges brought against immigrants with no criminal records. Except for Sullivan, that is ó even though he admits that none of the Logan 19 can be linked to any terrorist activity. After his office received a 1500-signature petition on June 4 demanding that the 19 cases be closed, Sullivan begrudgingly invited the advocates to meet last week.

Traub-Werner describes the hourlong event as " a very candid discussion " among advocates, Sullivan, and three top deputies. What struck her and her colleagues most was Sullivanís own admission that he knows little about immigration law ó and thus the consequences of these charges. " We found that significant, " says Traub-Werner, who works at SEIU Local 254/615, which represents five of the 19 workers. " The message the government is sending is that undocumented immigrants are criminals and that they will be treated like any other rapist or murderer. "

Despite Sullivanís apparent obstinacy, advocates arenít about to give up. They plan to ratchet up their public campaign to defend the Logan 19 on July 18, when they will hold a forum at the Most Holy Redeemer Church, in East Boston. Some of the 19 workers, hoping to galvanize the local Haitian and Latino communities in particular, will talk about their experiences since their February 27 arrests. Advocates also intend to plot out a strategy to pressure Sullivan to back down ó by, say, targeting his political allies.

Ultimately, advocates believe they can change minds. After all, Sullivan met with them after refusing to do so for months. Says Traub-Werner, " We see this is a winnable fight. We can get the charges dropped. Itís just a matter of public pressure. "

The Logan 19 Defense Committee will hold a forum about the cases of the 19 immigrant Logan Airport workers on Thursday, July 18 at the Most Holy Redeemer Church, in East Boston, at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Issue Date: July 11 - 18, 2002
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