Senator Eldridge Files Civil Rights Protections for Undocumented Immigrants and Muslim-Americans in Senate Budget

  • Bans official law enforcement collaboration with ICE to push back against Trump mass deportation agenda
  • Improves public safety by building trust between police and immigrant communities
  • Prohibits state resources from being used to create a Muslim registry

BOSTON, MA — State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) has filed an amendment to the Massachusetts Senate’s FY19 budget that would establish strong civil rights protections for undocumented immigrants and Muslim-Americans in Massachusetts. The amendment would ensure basic due process rights for people detained in state and local facilities for civil immigration violations, prevent law enforcement from asking people about their immigration status, and prohibit any state resources from being used to create a registry based on religion, nationality, and other characteristics protected by Massachusetts civil rights law.

“Decades from now, history will judge how Massachusetts treated immigrants in this troubled time,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The impact of doing nothing is profound: spouses separated from each other, parents torn apart from their children at the hands of federal immigration enforcers. It’s time Massachusetts focuses on local needs and our most basic values of family, fairness and community. We need to protect people in our communities from harassment, deportation, and devastating family separation.”

“Massachusetts’ immigrants deserve to be protected as they continue contributing to our local economy and local communities,” said Roxana Rivera, Vice President and Massachusetts District Leader of 32BJ, the largest property service union in the country. “As a union with tens of thousands of immigrant members, protecting working families from being ripped apart and defending the rights of all immigrants, regardless of race or religion, is one of our key duties. We support these proposals in the hopes that the legislature will use the budget as a way to finally stand up for our American values and protect immigrants and working families in our state.”

Eldridge’s amendment, number 1147, would also build on last summer’s historic SJC decision that prohibited law enforcement from honoring ICE detainers by banning official agreements to deputize local officers as immigration agents.

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 on arrests 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.

The Obama administration reduced the number of 287(g) agreements because it facilitated several instances of racial profiling and discriminatory raids on immigrant communities, the most egregious of which were enforced by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Due to its ruthless efficiency, however, the program has more than doubled under the Trump administration with local and state law enforcement officials being used to carry out the President’s mass deportation policy. Currently, ICE has entered into 287(g) agreements with the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office, Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office, which would all be negated by this amendment. The Massachusetts Department of Correction also has a 287(g) agreement, but their agreement would be exempt from this prohibition.

“The SJC’s ruling last year was 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,” 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. These aggressive immigration enforcement policies are leaving families fearful of accessing critical health care services and domestic violence victims fearful of seeking help. We must make it clear that we do not want to live in a state where local and state enforcement are collaborating with federal ICE agents to target hardworking immigrants. This is not only critical for immigrant communities, but enhances the public safety of all Massachusetts residents, as well as limits the damage to our economy due to Donald Trump’s xenophobic agenda.”

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. According to a recent Boston Globe report, arrests of undocumented immigrants in the Boston area increased by more than 50 percent in the last fiscal year, while arrests of people without criminal backgrounds more than tripled.

“Immigrant families deserve to know that they are safe and welcome anywhere in our Commonwealth — and that if they can call 911 and speak to police without fear that they’ll be separated and referred for deportation,” said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). “The protections included in this amendment enjoy broad public support, and they are urgently needed. We need to send a strong message that Massachusetts values and protects all its residents.”

Eldridge’s Civil Rights and Safety amendment, number 1147, would ensure that police and other law enforcement officials refrain from inquiring about a person’s immigration status unless required by law. This will help providers who assist immigrant survivors of domestic violence, including medical providers, to safely encourage their clients and patients to report abuse to the police. The amendment includes court officials, but not judges, who may need to be able to ask such questions to adjudicate cases properly. It also requires that this guidance be incorporated into police training programs.

“For immigrant survivors of sexual and/or domestic violence, the barriers and challenges to accessing supports and services are enormous, and anticipated local law enforcement collaboration with ICE is already having a chilling effect,” said Debra Robbin, Executive Director of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide sexual and domestic violence coalition that works to promote safety, justice, and healing for survivors. “Policies that blur the lines between immigration enforcement and community law enforcement endanger the safety of victims of sexual and domestic violence, their families, and communities.”

The Civil Rights and Safety amendment would also require police to inform persons of their right to decline an ICE interview or to have a private attorney present, and to obtain the person’s consent before an interview. Immigration agents routinely interview people in police custody. Because “Miranda” warnings are not constitutionally required in the civil immigration context, noncitizens are often unaware that they have the right to seek legal help before consenting to an interview with ICE. Without this simple warning, people charged with minor offenses like unlicensed driving can lose their ability to protect themselves and their families from deportation. This amendment would direct the Attorney General to create a uniform consent form for this purpose, in English and other languages commonly spoken in Massachusetts. It also requires police to provide people with copies of any immigration-related documents they have received from ICE.

“Agencia ALPHA thanks Senator Eldridge for his courage to keep fighting on behalf of our immigrant community and his desire to not letting this year pass without the commitment from our elected officials to make this State a safe State,” Damaris Velasquez, Director of Programs at Agencia Alpha, a faith-based non-profit that provides legalization & citizenship services.

Finally, the amendment would ensure that Massachusetts resources are not used to create or help the federal government create any federal program requiring registration of persons on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, nationality, citizenship, ethnicity, or age.

“One of President Trump’s hate-inciting tactics on the campaign trail was the promise of a Muslim registry,” Eldridge said. “Though President Trump has yet to deliver on a Muslim Registry, there’s no telling if the issue will come up again. This is after all a president who remains determined to institute an unconstitutional travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries.”


1 thought on “Senator Eldridge Files Civil Rights Protections for Undocumented Immigrants and Muslim-Americans in Senate Budget

  • The recently arrived immigrants are lucky to have a courage leader such as Senator Eldridge who understands the positive contributions that the hard working immigrants are making to the commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are grateful for his championing immigrant rights’ bills and for standing up for what is just.

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