Statement of Attorney General Maura Healey on SJC Decision Regarding ICE Detainer Requests
BOSTON – Today, Attorney General Maura Healey issued the following statement on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in the case of Lunn v. Commonwealth. This is the first statewide decision in the nation on whether local law enforcement officials may, as a matter of state law, detain someone at the request of federal immigration authorities.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the rule of law and smart immigration and criminal justice policies, and a rejection of anti-immigrant policies that have stoked fear in communities across the country. As my office argued in this case, Massachusetts law protects our residents from illegal detention and prevents the federal government from forcing local law enforcement to make decisions contrary to the public safety interests of their communities. This decision allows local law enforcement to focus their resources on keeping people safe.”
In March, AG Healey together with Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins filed a brief arguing that there are many ways that state and local law enforcement agencies cooperate with the federal government if a particular individual poses a threat to public safety, but that should be left to those authorities to decide consistent with local needs.
Many organizations submitted briefs supporting the AG’s filing, including the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, the Criminal Defense Clinic at Boston University School of Law, Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Suffolk Lawyers for Justice, Inc., as well as thirty academics in the field of immigration law.
Today’s decision closely tracks the arguments laid out in the brief by the AG’s Office. In the decision issued today, the SJC found that “Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody.”
Similar to what the AG’s Office has also argued, the decision also makes clear that this is a matter that is best addressed by the Legislature, if they wish to do so.