Officials disputed a report by a syndicated newspaper columnist that New Hampshire and Massachusetts officials were involved in the transfer of illegal aliens to the Hanscom Air Force Base and their eventual release.
“The aliens transferred to the New England area are currently detained in ICE custody pending the outcome of their immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review,” said ICE in a statement released Thursday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Daniel Modricker.
Officials said no illegal aliens stayed at Hanscom Air Force Base, and none were released, as conservative columnist Michelle Malkin reported in “The New Dumping Grounds,” which ran Tuesday in the New York Post, National Review Online and other publications.
Malkin said Thursday that the gist of her piece was correct. “In fact, my source got the fundamental fact right: Illegal aliens were indeed flown into Hanscom in the same week that the White House was ramping up its dumping policy,” she wrote in an email.
On Tuesday, Malkin cited an unnamed source who said 160 illegal aliens were flown into Massachusetts airports this month. The first batch stayed at Hanscom for a week, flew out and were eventually released, the source told Malkin.
The second batch was diverted this past weekend from Hanscom to Logan Airport, where New Hampshire and Massachusetts officials were waiting, she reported.
“Question: How many other military bases are stealthily being used to redistribute, house, process and release the illegal border crossers?” Malkin wrote.
However, on Thursday:
• Hanscom Air Force Base spokesman Chuck Paone said ICE did fly some detainees into the adjacent Hanscom Field, which is operated by Massport and is no longer associated with the base. Jail officials from Massachusetts and New Hampshire took custody of the detainees.
“She definitely got it wrong,” Paone said. “Nobody ever stayed at Hanscom Air Base. We have no place to put them.”
• Strafford County Jail Superintendent Bruce Pelkie said about a dozen ICE detainees were brought to his jail on Saturday.
The Strafford County Jail houses federal inmates under contract. He said none of the inmates brought in on Saturday were released from custody through his jail, although ICE may have transferred some to other facilities.
It’s possible the Strafford County Sheriff’s Department could have picked them up in Massachusetts and transported them to the jail, Pelkie said. A Sheriff’s Department sergeant would not say whether his agency transported the detainees, citing ICE policies.
• ICE said the transfer of detainees from one area of responsibility to another is part of the normal removal process. The transfers take place daily and occur on commercial, charter or ICE-owned aircraft. However, ICE did not answer several questions about the detainees, such as whether they were priority deportations or their current status.
The Malkin column details several instances where military bases in Texas, California and Oklahoma are used to house illegal aliens. Malkin quotes two unnamed sources who said some, especially those sick or those with children, are eventually released from custody.
Malkin is critical about the ICE approach to enforcement of immigration laws. She has termed it a catch-and-release program, and said that notices to appear in immigration court amount to “run letters.”
In an email, Malkin noted she finally got in touch with Hanscom officials, and she updated her piece on her blog. She said no one has reported about the issue.
“It’s news and taxpayers/residents in New England should know about it. The border crisis is not just affecting border states,” Malkin wrote in an email.