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New England border protection chief charged with hiring illegal immigrants

By Jonathan Saltzman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

The regional director of Homeland Security, Customs, and Border Protection was charged today with repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants to clean her Salem home after one cleaner wore a wire during an undercover investigation.

Lorraine Henderson is the director of the Port of Boston, overseeing 190 armed federal officers who patrol major airports and shipping terminals in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

"She’s supposed to be deporting aliens, not hiring them," said Assistant US Attorney Brian T. Kelly, chief of the public corruption unit.

Agents arrested Henderson at her Salem home at 8 a.m. Standing this afternoon in US District Court in Boston, she wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt and did not enter a plea to a charge of encouraging an illegal immigrant to remain in the country. If convicted, she faces as much as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The initial appearance lasted 15 minutes and Henderson said little, responding to questions from Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings about whether she understood her legal rights with one-word answers. Collings released her on a $25,000 unsecured bond and ordered her to surrender her passport. Henderson has been placed on paid administrative leave, a US Attorney's spokeswoman said.

According to an eight-page affidavit unsealed today, Henderson had employed a Brazilian woman to clean her home for $75 to $80 every few weeks for several years. Henderson's fellow officers at US Customs and Border Protection told her in 2005 and 2006 that it was against the law to hire illegal immigrants and urged her to find another housekeeper. Not only did she ignore the advice, according to the affidavit, but when the housekeeper took time off to have a baby, Henderson also allegedly hired two of the housekeeper's Brazilian friends who were also in the country illegally.

After having a baby, the original housekeeper allegedly came back to work for Henderson, who counseled her to avoid detection by law enforcement. The housekeeper told her, according to the affidavit, that she had been living in the United States illegally for seven years after paying a man to smuggle her across the Mexican border.

"You have to be careful 'cause they will deport you. Be careful," Henderson told the housekeeper in a conversation Sept. 9, 2008, that was recorded on the wire. "Wow, wow, if you leave they won't let you back … you can't leave, don't leave … 'cause once you leave you will never be back."

After the conversation that day in her Salem home, Henderson increased the woman's pay from $75 to $80, according to the affidavit. The housekeeper, whose name was not included in the affidavit, agreed to wear a wire after being approached by a special agent with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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You have to wonder why they went after her. Bush has repeatedly said he is not interested in enforcing immigration laws. The entire government supports illegal immigration. Yet, every once in a while, these laws are used to target some employer or some government official. I smell a red herring.
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