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Mass. Lawyers Tell Police They Can’t Hold Criminal Illegals For ICE

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Lawyers for the state of Massachusetts argued Tuesday that local law enforcement cannot detain criminal illegal immigrants for any period of time longer than their sentences in order to give federal agents more time to take them into custody.

The state attorney general’s office presented its case in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, challenging the practice of keeping removable aliens in custody after their cases have been resolved by the state criminal justice system.

Massachusetts asserts that detaining someone beyond their release date amounts to a fresh arrest of the person without sufficient legal justification, Reuters reported.

“Probable cause for civil removability is simply not a basis for arrest under Massachusetts law,” Assistant State Attorney General Jessica Barnett told the court. State law does not empower law enforcement agencies to arrest people facing civil deportation proceedings, she added.

The legal challenge hopes to settle the question of whether or not state and local law enforcement officials are are allowed to honor federal immigration detainers, which are formal requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to keep illegal immigrants in custody for two days after their local cases are closed. The detainers give ICE agents a larger window in which to arrest removable aliens and are a favored enforcement tactic under administration of President Donald Trump.

U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Joshua Press argued the use of detainers is a routine matter of cooperation between state and federal law enforcement, adding that states have the “inherent authority to police their sovereignty.”

The Trump administration has prioritized stepped-up detention and removal of illegal immigrants since taking office and has called out cities and states that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to pull DOJ grant money from “sanctuary jurisdictions” that shield illegal immigrants from deportation or refuse to honor ICE detainers.

Massachusetts claims that non-cooperation with detainees is not voluntary but rather required by state law.

The state Supreme Judicial Court did not rule on the matter Tuesday.


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