O’Connell, GOP Reps., file bill to counter SJC immigration ruling
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said the SJC decision will make people more vulnerable to crime in Massachusetts.
BOSTON — After the state’s highest court ruled there is no authority for officials to hold immigrants solely at the request of federal authorities, three Republican House members are working to gather momentum behind legalizing those types of detentions.
In a ruling hailed by civil liberties advocates that ends a longstanding immigration enforcement practice, the Supreme Judicial Court declared Monday that current state law “provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody.”
Rep. James Lyons, an Andover Republican, said he is working with Republican Reps. Marc Lombardo of Billerica, and Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton to gather co-sponsors on a bill he plans to file Tuesday or Wednesday.
Lyons said the bill would be “straightforward,” giving Massachusetts police and court officers the power to arrest someone on a civil immigration warrant.
“People are concerned about the rule of law,” Lyons told the News Service. Asked about how he thought the bill would fare in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, Lyons said, “Beacon Hill, I can’t predict what’s going on up there.”
While the high court ruling focused on court officers, advocates said the opinion prohibits any state official from keeping someone jailed solely at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Going forward, nobody in Massachusetts should be held on an immigration detainer unless the Legislature were to attempt to change that,” said Emma Winger, Immigration Impact Unit staff attorney for the Committee on Public Counsel Services, who argued the case before the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in April.
“It applies to anybody with arrest authority,” said Laura Rotolo, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts. Rotolo said that while many jurisdictions have limited their cooperation with ICE, the SJC is the first state high court to rule against ICE detainers.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said the decision will make people more vulnerable to crime in Massachusetts.
“I wouldn’t say it makes Massachusetts a sanctuary state. I think it makes Massachusetts more vulnerable - the people who live here and people who visit here - more vulnerable to become victims of crime, and also a further message to people throughout the country who are here illegally that we’re the place you want to come,” Hodgson said.