Massachusetts Police Chiefs Associations endorse compromise Safe Communities Act

Endorsed redrafted language protects undocumented immigrants, improves public safety, seeks to improve trust between police and immigrant communities

BOSTON, MA — The Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association (MMCC) as well as the members of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA) Executive Committee and the MCOPA Legislative Committee unanimously endorsed a redraft of S.1305/H.3269, An Act to protect the civil rights and safety of all Massachusetts residents, commonly referred to as the Safe Communities Act. The bill’s lead sponsors, State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and State Representative Juana Matias (D-Lawrence) worked with key police chiefs to redraft the bill to address concerns from law enforcement, while limiting collaboration between law enforcement and ICE agents.

The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security reported the bills to the Senate Committee on Rules and the House Committee on Rules, respectively, and State Senator Eldridge and State Representative Matias are currently working with their colleagues to get the redrafted language passed by the Massachusetts Legislature.

“From the day I filed this bill, I’ve said that it both strengthens public safety and protects our economy, by ensuring Massachusetts resources are not used to help deport hardworking undocumented immigrants,” State Senator Eldridge said. “This strong endorsement by our police chiefs underscores that, and I am eager to work with my colleagues in the legislature, as well as Governor Baker, to get this critical public safety bill signed into law.”

“I’m proud to stand with Chief Brian Kyes, my colleagues, advocates, and our immigrant communities to announce that we have reached full and unanimous endorsement of both the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association,” said State Representative Juana Matias. “From the onset of being one of the lead sponsors of the original legislation we have been working both tirelessly and collaboratively with Chief Brian Kyes to reach a compromise version of the Safe Communities Act that would balance the needs and concerns of local law enforcement and our immigrant communities. The revised version of the Safe Communities Act will enhance the ability of our local law enforcement officers to maintain public safety, build trust, and keep our communities safe. I thank Chief Brian Kyes, and all the brave men and women of the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association for their commitment to safety of ALL Massachusetts residents.”

“As committed law enforcement leaders dedicated to preserving the safety and security of our respective communities across this great Commonwealth, both the members of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the members of the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association are writing to express our support and endorsement of S.1305 titled an Act to Protect the Civil Rights and Safety of all Massachusetts Residents,” the Police Chiefs Associations said in a statement provided to the bill’s lead sponsors.

The redrafted bill would allow law enforcement to honor detainer requests by ICE for up to 6 hours in cases where detainees have prior criminal convictions for serious violent offenses such as sexual assault, abuse or exploitation, drug trafficking, human trafficking, or domestic violence. It also allows law enforcement to honor detainer requests from ICE for up to six hours if a detainee is under arrest for terrorism charges as part of a Joint Terrorism Task Force. The redrafted language would also allow the Department of Corrections to notify ICE of the release date of inmates who serve time for serious violent offenses.

“The redraft of this bill now allows for what we view as a more effective balance of both building and improving trust in our respective communities while simultaneously enhancing public safety across the entire State. The modified version of this bill allows for a limited, yet effective, 6-hour ‘no-bail provision period’ for those individuals arrested by local and state police who also have a conviction on their respective criminal records for certain violent offenses or who have been arrested for a terrorism related offense and who Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials (ICE) also have what is deemed to be an actionable interest in based on the confirmation of received biometric fingerprint data that was acquired by police during the administrative booking procedure for the offense for which the individual was initially arrested,” the Police Chiefs Associations said.

“We believe that this newly modified bill is a commonsense, policy prudent, and safety-orientated approach to addressing the existing ‘gap’ in the state of the current law in this Commonwealth that was created by way of the SJC’s decision in Lunn,” the Police Chiefs Associations said. “Without this bill, State and local police would remain unable to detain any arrestee for any period of time despite the issuance of a federal ICE detainer, even an individual with a demonstrated propensity for committing violence based on their history of prior felony convictions on their record, to allow for the possibility of federal ICE agents to conduct an interview and possibly take the arrestee into federal custody if the circumstances were warranted. This important legislative change will absolutely enhance public safety in our respective communities by preventing dangerous individuals who meet the aforementioned criteria from being released back into our cities and towns to potentially reoffend and commit further acts of violence.”

On July 24, 2017, in Lunn v. Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) unanimously ruled that Massachusetts law does not allow law enforcement officers to hold individuals based solely on detainer requests from ICE. The first-in-the-nation decision is applied to any law enforcement officer acting under Massachusetts laws, and impacts existing collaborations between local law enforcement and ICE agents. The ruling does not, however, address or prohibit other forms of collaboration, such as formal 287 (g) agreements or informal notification about the whereabouts of undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts communities.

“The SJC ruling is significant, but legislative action is still necessary in order to protect hardworking undocumented immigrants from being caught up in President Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda,” State Senator Eldridge said. “Whereas previous White House administrations focused ICE resources on convicted criminals, the Trump administration’s policy targets all undocumented immigrants, including long-term, law-abiding members of our communities.”

In a February, 2017 memo, Matthew Albence, ICE Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), stated, “Effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.” During a July 13, 2017 interview, Acting Director of ICE, Thomas Homan, confirmed this policy when he said, “There’s no population of alien that’s off the table anymore and we’ve been waiting on that for a decade now.”

During the first year of the Trump administration, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers surged 40 percent, according to data provided by ICE. However, the biggest jump in arrests has been of immigrants with no criminal convictions. ICE made 37,734 noncriminal arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than double the number in the previous year.

The redrafted version of the Safe Communities Act would prohibit collaboration agreements that deputize local police and sheriffs. The bill would also bar state support for any Muslim registry, and ensure basic due process rights for immigrants who are detained in state and local facilities for civil violations.

“It is our collective hope that both the Senate and the House will act favorably on this important public safety legislation and submit it to the Governor for his astute review and consideration and ultimate signature to make this bill become law across our Commonwealth,” the Police Chiefs Associations said.

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