Governor Baker Plots to Jail Immigrants in Massachusetts

Immigrant Rights, Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Lawyers’ Committee Denounces Proposals to Co-Opt State and Local Police for Immigration Enforcement

Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker and a handful of Massachusetts state legislators proposed bills to allow state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law by holding individuals on federal immigration detainers after they would otherwise be released. The announcements followed a landmark ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) that held that no such authority currently exists in Massachusetts.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice denounces these efforts to undercut the SJC ruling. Any such anti-immigrant legislation would undermine public safety. When state and local law enforcement become emmeshed in federal immigration enforcement, this sows deep mistrust in immigrant and minority communities and weakens public safety overall. Victims and witnesses of crimes become reluctant to approach police for fear that this could lead to deportation for themselves or their families. This erosion of trust in law enforcement is harmful not only to immigrant communities, but to all residents of the Commonwealth.

Co-opting state and local police officers into federal immigration enforcement also places significant budgetary burdens on the state. These activities require state and local police departments to divert personnel and spend additional funds for prolonged detentions. In an era of scarce resources, it is fiscally irresponsible for the Commonwealth to divert state resources to federal immigration enforcement activities.

The Lawyers’ Committee continues to fight regressive and discriminatory immigration policies throughout the Commonwealth. In February, we sued President Trump to invalidate an Executive Order that threatened to deprive “sanctuary jurisdictions” of most federal funding, an Order that has now been enjoined by the federal courts. In May, we filed suit against Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson for failing to release documents that would shed light on whether his efforts to enforce federal immigration law include racial profiling.

On behalf of the minority and immigrant communities we represent, we will continue to fight against discriminatory policies that stoke fear and undermine public safety.

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights jointly published an article opposing Gov. Baker’s anti-immigrant proposals in the Boston Globe.