Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a new policy that will allow State Police to contact federal immigration authorities for the purposes of verifying the immigration status of suspects already in custody on state criminal charges. In taking this step, Governor Baker, a Republican, is undoing the actions of his Democratic predecessor, ex-governor Deval Patrick. This new proposal will be put in place to allow federal law enforcement officials to better combat terrorism, gangs, and other activity of a criminal nature in the state of Massachusetts. This policy will affect undocumented immigrants, as well as legal permanent residents, with extensive criminal records or those convicted of serious crimes of moral turpitude.
State police will not be able to apprehend individuals based on immigration violations alone. Instead, as a result of this new policy, state troopers will be able to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and inquire with ICE whether a person in custody is considered a ‘priority target.’ A ‘priority target’ is someone who has extensive criminal history or poses a security risk. By law, state police cannot enforce federal immigration law, but they will be able to assist federal law enforcement officials in detaining individuals in custody who pose a significant threat to the country’s national security.
Massachusetts law enforcement does not currently participate in the ‘Secure Communities’ program, because the State believes ICE may be targeting law-abiding individuals and not individuals who pose a security risk.
Currently, federal law enforcement is authorized to detain individuals on the basis of immigration violations alone, under the Priority Enforcement program, if the individual has committed a serious crime or significant misdemeanor. There are 6 categories under which federal law enforcement may detain an individual for immigration violations as follows:
- If the person is suspected of terrorism or espionage
- If the person is convicted of being a gang member in federal court
- If the person has a felony conviction
- If the person has been convicted of a significant misdemeanor such as domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, illegal gun possession, drug distribution, drunk driving, or an offense keeping the person behind bars for 90 days or longer
- If the person has been convicted of three or more misdemeanors, excluding minor traffic offenses such as infractions.
It is for this reason that we recommend our clients to be very cautious. Criminal offenses can drastically affect your chances of legalizing and may cause you to be removed or worse—inadmissible to the United States. Even if you are a legal permanent resident, a serious criminal offense can cause you to be removed from the United States.
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