By Will Racke
Police chiefs in Massachusetts are lining up behind Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to let state and local police honor immigration detention requests for criminal aliens deemed to be public safety threats.
Leaders of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Major City Police Chiefs Association wrote a letter to state legislators calling Baker’s bill a “commonsense” approach to cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, reports Masslive.com.
“This change will enhance public safety in our respective communities by preventing these dangerous criminals from being released back into our cities and towns to potentially commit further crimes,” the police chiefs wrote.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled last month that state law does not give police the authority to honor ICE detainers, which are formal requests to hold criminal aliens in local jails for up to 48 hours until immigration agents can take custody of the suspect. Justices found that holding a person beyond the expiration of a jail sentence amounts to a fresh arrest for a civil violation, which is not permitted under state law.
Baker responded by introducing a bill that would give police the explicit power to honor ICE detainers for certain categories of criminal aliens. Under Baker’s proposal, local jails could hold for up to 12 hours those suspected of terrorism or participating in a criminal street gang, domestic violence or sexual abuse offenders, convicted felons and other “high priority” inmates.
The bill is currently pending before the state legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Massachusetts police chiefs say it would fix a “gap” in the law that forces local law enforcement to release criminal aliens with a “demonstrated propensity for violence.”
“While we are in agreement that civil immigration enforcement is primarily a federal law enforcement responsibility which should be decoupled from state and local police enforcement priorities, we remain steadfast in our commitment as officers sworn to protect and serve the public that we should be utilizing every strategic resource at our disposal to optimize and enhance the safety and security of our communities within legal boundaries,” the police chiefs wrote.
The letter was sent Friday to Democratic lawmakers Sen. William Brownsberger and Rep. Claire Cronin, the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The committee has not yet held a hearing on Baker’s proposal.
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