A former top Homeland Security official from Boston violated the very law she had taken an oath to uphold by encouraging a Brazilian housekeeper who was an illegal immigrant to stay in the country, a federal prosecutor told a jury today.
Lorraine Henderson, who was suspended from her job as regional director of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection after her arrest in December 2008, was caught on a wire secretly worn by the housekeeper, Fabiana Bittencourt, warning her not to leave the US because she would not be let back in, said Assistant US Attorney Diane C. Freniere. The housekeeper was cooperating with authorities.
"Lorraine Henderson violated the same immigration law that she had taken an oath to uphold," Freniere said in her opening statement to jurors in US District Court in Boston. Bittencourt is among the witnesses expected to testify for the government.
Henderson's lawyer, Francis J. DiMento, of Boston, opted not to make an opening statment but told US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock that he may change his mind when the trial resumes tomorrow.
After the jury had been excused for the day, DiMento told Woodlock that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to convict his client and asked the judge to acquit Henderson. DiMento said federal immigration law allows people to hire illegal immigrants as domestic workers intermittently and so Henderson broke no laws.
"The laws forbidding employment of illegal aliens does not apply to casual domestic workers," he said.
But the prosecutor replied that the government had charged Henderson with a more serious offense -- encouraging an illegal immigrant to remain in the country -- a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Woodlock declined to grant the motion for judgment of acquittal, saying he wanted the jury to hear all the evidence provided by both sides. The trial is expected to last six to eight days.
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