We, along with fellow advocates, delivered a blow to the Trump administration's racist anti-immigrant policies. The Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in Massachusetts, ruled that local law enforcement officials cannot detain a person based solely on a request from federal immigration agencies. In other words, the Trump administration can't ask Massachusetts to join its deportation machine.
This is likely the first such ruling in a high state court, according to Massachusetts ACLU staff counsel Laura Rótolo.
"As far as we know this is the only state court that has ruled on its own state law authority," Rótolo said.
While many states and municipalities issue guidance to local law enforcement authorities, the Massachusetts ruling goes one step further. In essence, it means that officers do not have the authority under state law to administer ICE detainers.
An ICE detainer is issued on an undocumented person who has been arrested on local criminal charges when ICE believes there is probable cause to remove the person from the United States, according to the ICE website. If a local law enforcement agency complies with the request, when the person is released from local custody, ICE immediately takes the person into custody.
The case was raised to the Supreme Court as an important legal question that arose out of a criminal case, Rótolo said.
Rótolo said the Massachusetts ruling was based purely on law, including some case law from as long ago as the 1700s and 1800s, rather than public policy issues cited by state attorneys general and other officials in guidance to law enforcement agencies.
"The court was not talking about public policy," Rótolo said. "It was not talking about what's best for communities, it was not even talking about this current political environment."
After this win in the courthouse, we turn to the State House. Join us in urging legislators to pass the Safe Communities Act (S.1305, H.3269), which would provide other necessary protections to immigrants in Massachusetts.