By Marc Larocque
Enterprise Staff Writer
BROCKTON – After coming under fire from critics across the country in the wake of her immigration raid rumor controversy, including a barrage of condemnation this week from several programs on the Fox News Channel, state Rep. Michelle DuBois, D-Brockton, is still standing and is not backing down.
DuBois released a public statement on her Facebook page on Tuesday morning that warned undocumented immigrants to “stay off the streets” and not to answer their door if an unexpected guest arrives, after she heard rumors of a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid planned for Wednesday in Brockton. That sparked a national controversy, especially after Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson brought it up during a Congressional subcommittee hearing on immigration enforcement, calling her comment “the most outrageous, outrageous example” of elected officials trying to undermine federal immigration enforcement efforts.
During a lengthy exclusive interview with The Enterprise on Thursday afternoon, DuBois was defiant about the scrutiny she has received for tipping off undocumented immigrants about a suspected raid and she disagreed with the notion that she was putting federal law enforcement agents in danger. Instead, DuBois said she was helping immigrants to know their rights and was letting ICE know that their supposed raid in Brockton was compromised.
“I’m proud of myself,” DuBois said. “I shouldn’t be ashamed. Living in a community that’s an immigrant community like Brockton, people call me crying in fear about what might happen to them. So the fear is real. My Facebook page didn’t incite any fear more than that’s already present.”
But even some fellow Democrats from Massachusetts and immigration advocates in the state admitted that DuBois created unnecessary chaos and heightened fear in the local immigrant community. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said alerting the community to a supposed federal raid, especially based on inaccurate information, can do more harm than good. Janine Carreiro-Young, deputy director of the Dorchester-based Massachusetts Communities Action Network, said DuBois had good intentions and generated constructive dialogue about the situation, but “created a lot of chaos” and the rumor-based warning probably shouldn’t be repeated.
Asked if she would do it again, if presented more rumors about an upcoming ICE raid, the Brockton Democrat wouldn’t say either way.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” DuBois said..
The state lawmaker, who also represents West Bridgewater and a part of East Bridgewater, also wouldn’t concede that the rumor she spread was unfounded.
“We don’t know if it was false or not,” said DuBois, who was elected to represent the 10th Plymouth District in 2014.
ICE had no planned immigration enforcement operations in Brockton and also made no arrests in the city this week, as of 4 p.m., on Thursday, according to Shawn Neudauer, a spokesperson for the federal agency’s New England office.
DuBois beat back against the harsh criticism leveled by Hodgson, the local sheriff, who went on several Fox News programs to criticize the Brockton Democrat and other elected officials he feels are subverting immigration enforcement efforts. Hodgson appeared on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning to slam DuBois, after he did the same on The O’Reilly Factor the night before.
Hodgson, who said that DuBois should “step down” from office and that she could be prosecuted for harboring or concealing illegal immigrants, was trying to curtail DuBois’ freedom of speech, the Brockton legislator said.
“If anybody is fear-mongering, I believe it’s Sheriff Hodgson,” said DuBois, who watched his interview with Bill O’Reilly. “I didn’t do anything illegal. I have spoken with attorneys. That’s 100 percent inaccurate. And he back pedals on that, if you watch the interview he did on The O’Reilly Factor. ... He said that I’m inciting fear in the immigrant community. I say he’s trying to incite fear to anyone who speaks out and uses freedom of speech in a manner they want to.”
DuBois said when she made the Facebook post that sparked the national controversy, she was looking out for the constituents of her district.
“I thought I was doing it for the betterment of my community, and that includes the safety of police officers,” the Brockton lawmaker said. “That includes the safety of documented citizens and all the people that live in my district.”