Massachusetts Revises Its Policy On Detaining Immigrants
BOSTON (AP) — State police will be allowed to temporarily detain some people wanted by federal immigration authorities under revised policies issued Thursday by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration.
The new guidelines, effective immediately, reverse previous state policy put in place during the administration of Democratic former Gov. Deval Patrick.
The revisions are in line with the federal Priority Enforcement Program, state police said. The fingerprint-sharing program, aimed at violent and dangerous criminals, was implemented by Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration after its predecessor, the federal Secure Communities program, was criticized by advocacy groups for sweeping up many law-abiding immigrants and fostering an atmosphere of mistrust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
Under Patrick, Massachusetts declined to participate in Secure Communities, and state troopers were barred from contacting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for any reason without supervisory approval.
The new directive allows state police to detain for up to 48 hours people who are in the country illegally and fall into one of several priority enforcement categories, including being suspected of posing a threat to national security.
Other categories include people convicted of major felonies or of being active participants in street gangs.
State officials stressed that under the guidelines troopers would still not be allowed to stop or arrest people on the sole basis of immigration status.
“This policy revision gives the professionals of our statewide policing agency the tools necessary to detain criminals, gang members or suspected terrorists wanted by federal authorities,” Baker said in a statement announcing the policy shift. “As before, the state police will not be enforcing federal immigration law nor will they inquire about immigration status; they will now be able to assist in detaining for our federal partners individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety or national security.”
State police personnel will be allowed to contact ICE directly without supervisory approval, officials said.
The executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Eva Millona, said her group does not doubt Baker’s desire to improve public safety but questions whether the new state policy is necessary.
Immigration detainers are not criminal warrants and do not require a showing of probable cause, Millona also said, and some courts have held that they amount to an unconstitutional second arrest.
“This policy may unintentionally invite lawsuits and make the state liable for unconstitutional arrests,” she said.
The guidelines apply only to state police and not local police departments, several of which have declined to fully comply with the federal program.