The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal judge who ruled that the district court has no jurisdiction over the case. The appellate court added, however, that "our opinion should not be read as an unqualified endorsement of the way in which immigration officials handled the matter."
The court rejected the immigrants' claim that their detention and quick transfer to holding centers in Texas interfered with their right to make decisions on the care and control of their children.
The judges said in their ruling, however, that they accepted allegations U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials "gave social welfare agencies insufficient notice of the raid, that caseworkers were denied access to detainees until after the first group had been transferred, and that various ICE actions temporarily thwarted any effective investigation into the detainees' needs."
As a result, a substantial number of the detainees' minor children were left for varying periods of time without adult supervision, according to the ruling.
State officials were among those critical of how ICE officials conducted the raid. An agency spokesman has said that ICE notified social workers about the raids ahead of time, and that no children were stranded.
ICE spokeswoman Paula Grenier said agency officials will comment only after a thorough review of Tuesday's ruling.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Harvey Kaplan, said that he was studying the ruling with colleagues and that they may appeal or go back to the district court and amend their complaint.
"Those are the options, but we haven't analyzed the best way to proceed," Kaplan said.
Attorneys had argued that the government intentionally deprived the immigrants of family and legal resources by transferring them to remote holding centers in Texas, in some cases hours after the raid.
ICE lawyers have said that the New Bedford workers were moved because there was no space to hold them in Massachusetts, and that no detainees were denied counsel.