Brazilians Debate Whether Undocumented Housecleaner ‘Betrayed’ Her Boss

By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNewz and FI2W reporter

The news on the local Portuguese-language newspaper Brazilian Times

The news on the local Portuguese-language newspaper Brazilian Times

The talk of the town within the “Brazilian corners” of Somerville and Framingham, Massachusetts is whether the Brazilian housecleaner employed by Homeland Security official Lorraine Henderson betrayed her boss by agreeing to record their conversations for immigration authorities. Henderson, the Boston area port director for the Customs and Border Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was arrested last Saturday for allegedly employing an undocumented Brazilian housecleaner at her home in Salem, Mass.

The controversy in the Brazilian community, which we reported earlier this week, has now made it to the airwaves on Portuguese-language radio in the Bay State.

“Three years ago my boss asked if I had Social Security. I said no. She fired me, but her neighbors kept my services. I would never record a conversation with somebody who gives me a job,” said a listener to a show on WSRO (650 AM), who declined to reveal her name.

“I simply asked my listeners: if a boss treated you well, gave you a job, would you do what this housecleaner did to Henderson?,” said Fausto da Rocha, host of “Brazilian Immigrant Center on the Air” a show broadcast every Monday morning on 1360 AM.

Of about 30 listeners, only two defended the housecleaner’s actions. It’s unclear at this point if the Brazilian woman was arrested, deported, or cut any deal with immigration authorities.

But here are 10 facts which may help answer some questions about the case. All are taken from an affidavit prepared by special agent John Coleman of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division. The affidavit was filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on December 4, 2008.

1 – Lorraine Henderson supervised 190 armed agents, and was responsible for denying entrance to illegal immigrants who attempt to come to the U.S. via ports and airports in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut;

2 -The housecleaner, identified only as “IAl 1 (illegal alien 1)” and described by Henderson as “attractive, trustworthy, thorough, but who spoke broken English,” began cleaning her house in the summer of 2004.

3 – The Brazilian lady confessed to another boss, a co-worker of Henderson, that she paid thousands of dollars to be smuggled into the U.S. via the Mexican border. The boss fired her;

4 – During a ride home, Henderson’s co-worker asked her to terminate the housecleaner. Henderson replied that she only interacted with the illegal immigrant via phone or written notes, and that the Brazilian contractor cleaned when she was not at home;

5 – The housecleaner withdrew from Henderson’s contact for a while to have a baby. During that period, two other Brazilian cleaners continued to provide the service;

6 – As ordered by agent Coleman, the Brazilian housecleaner reconnects with Henderson and starts to record phone conversations;

7 – The housecleaner pays her boss a visit. In the parking lot, she sees a white Ford Explorer adorned with Homeland Security logo. The Brazilian woman talks about her illegal status. Henderson says, “I thought you were going to get married,” and recommends “you need to file the (wedding) papers and be very careful, they can deport you.” The housecleaner records the conversation;

8 – The housecleaner explained that she entered the U.S. without a visa 7 years ago, and that she wanted to live in this country forever. Henderson told her “let me see what I can do,” and recommended another neighbor’s house for her to clean.

9 – On October 7th, Henderson inquired further about the housecleaner’s status: when did you come to the U.S.? Where did you enter from? Have you ever committed a felony? Do you have illegal relatives present in the U.S.? The Brazilian woman responded and left a note saying “I am worried about my problem,” referring to her illegal status;

10 – Instructed by agent Coleman, the housecleaner halted her services. On November 12th, she returned to Henderson’s property without warning her former boss. The Brazilian contractor had the alarm code and let herself in. She didn’t find the customary $75; instead, she saw the business card of another Brazilian cleaner. Coleman concludes his investigation saying that he “interviewed” two other housecleaners from Brazil, both living illegally in the country.

If convicted, Lorraine Henderson faces up to 10 years imprisonment, plus 3 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.