Massachusetts law about immigration

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on immigration law.

Table of Contents

Best bets

Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services 
This page provides information on requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). See also the National Immigration Law Center: DACA for information on ongoing litigations regarding DACA.

Massachusetts legal help: immigration
Produced by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. Provides links to information about immigrants’ rights, planning for a family emergency, DACA, healthcare, education rights and more.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system. Their website includes forms, case status updates, e-filing, and information on green cards and citizenship. For current policies see the USCIS Policy Manual.

US Immigration and Enforcement Services (ICE)
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ICE enforces more than 400 federal statutes and focuses on customs violations, immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism and combating the illegal movement of people and goods. For current information on ICE operations see the see the ICE Information Library.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.90, § 8 Operator's licenses; applications; examinations
The state offers 2 types of licenses, 1 of which complies with the REAL ID law for those who can provide proof of lawful presence. Applicants who cannot provide proof of lawful presence are eligible for a Massachusetts license (effective July 1st, 2023). See An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility for more information.

MGL c.222, § 17 Notaries public not licensed to practice law; prohibition from offering legal advice or advertisement as legal specialist; immigration matters; real estate closings.

MGL c.278, § 29D Court must tell defendants making a plea of guilty, plea of nolo contendere, or an admission to sufficient facts about potential immigration consequences of their decision.

Massachusetts regulations

121 CMR Office for Refugees and Immigrants regulations

130 CMR 504 MassHealth: Citizenship and Immigration

Federal laws and regulations

Federal laws

8 U.S.C. Aliens and nationality

18 U.S.C. § 69 Nationality and citizenship

18 U.S.C. § 75 Passports and visas

The REAL ID Act of 2005, PL 109-13, Division B, Title II, 2005 

Federal regulations

6 CFR 37 Real ID driver’s licenses and identification cards

8 CFR Immigration regulations

28 CFR 44 Unfair immigration-related employment practices

64 FR 28689, Field guidance on deportability and inadmissibility on public charge grounds.

After the Biden Administration ended litigation involving the 2019 public charge rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has stated they have restored this longstanding 1999 Interim Field Guidance. For more information see the USCIS public charge page.

Court and rules

Immigration Court: Boston, Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Dept. of Justice.

The Immigration Court practice manual, Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Dept. of Justice.
A guide for practice before the immigration court.

Selected cases

Biden v. Texas, 597 U.S. ___ (2022).
The Supreme Court rejected claims that immigration law requires the Biden administration to continue to enforce Trump era Migrant Protection Protocols, popularly known as the “remain in Mexico” policy. 

Commonwealth v. Gautreaux, 458 Mass. 741 (2011). 
Notification to consulate of arrest. "We conclude that the notifications required by art. 36 [of the Vienna Convention] must be provided to foreign nationals on their arrest; and, if not provided, a challenge to the soundness of any conviction resulting therefrom may be made in a motion for a new trial. The standard to be applied in such circumstances is the substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice standard, one that the defendant has not met in this case."

Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 591 U.S. ___ (2020).
United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a 2017 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) order to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program was "arbitrary and capricious" under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and reversed the order.

Finch v. Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, 461 Mass. 232 (2012). 
Commonwealth Care health coverage for legal immigrants. "Section 31(a) [of St.2009, c.65 ] cannot pass strict scrutiny. The discrimination against legal immigrants that its limiting language embodies violates their rights to equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution."

Lunn v. Commonwealth, 477 Mass. 517 (2017)
Police officers and court officers in Massachusetts lack the authority to hold a person under a civil immigration detainer, when that person would otherwise be released from custody.

Recinos v. Escobar, 473 Mass. 734 (2016)
Jurisdiction. The "Probate and Family Court has jurisdiction, under its broad equity power, over youth between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one for the specific purpose of making the special findings necessary to apply for special immigrant juvenile status pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act."

Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993)
"Where a juvenile has no available parent, close relative, or legal guardian, where the government does not intend to punish the child, and where the conditions of governmental custody are decent and humane, such custody surely does not violate the Constitution." See also, the Flores Settlement, and The history of the Flores Settlement (2019).

Ongoing conversation regarding the Flores Settlement were heard in the Ninth Circuit in three cases known as Flores I, Flores II, and Flores III. For more information on these three cases See Child Migrants at the Border: The Flores Settlement Agreement and Other Legal Developments (2021).

Organizations

Immigration law help: Massachusetts. "An online directory of nonprofit organizations that provide free or low-cost immigration legal help. Users can search for organizations by state, county, or detention facility. Users can also refine their search by areas and types of legal assistance provided, populations served, and languages spoken."

Berkshire Immigrant Center
The Berkshire Immigrant Center serves over 700 immigrants and their families in Berkshire County each year by direct services, referrals, legal and procedural counseling, and general support free of charge or at below-market cost.

City of Boston immigration advancement resources
Do you need immigration advice from a lawyer? The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement offers free immigration consultations on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 12 to 3 p.m. To schedule an appointment with a volunteer lawyer, call (617) 635-2980 or email immigrantadvancement@boston.gov. Interpretation and disability accommodations are available, and consultations are 15 minutes.

Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants
ORI’s mission is to promote the full participation of refugees and immigrants as self-sufficient individuals and families in the economic, social, and civic life of Massachusetts. Eligible groups include: Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Holders, Amerasians, Asylees, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, Human Trafficking Victims, Legal Permanent Residents, and Refugees.

MIRA: Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
MIRA works “to protect and support the most vulnerable, especially those at risk of deportation, but also strive to expand opportunities for all foreign-born people and their children, so they can make the most of their talent and labor.”

Web sources

Planning for a family emergency: advice for immigrant families
Helpful information to help immigrant families prepare for an emergency. Includes information on how to fill out a caregiver affidavit authorization, with forms.

Attorney General guidance
The office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts provides guidance on 

Citizenship works (Citizenshipworks is a collaboration between the Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Pro Bono Net.)
"CitizenshipWorks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests. The CitizenshipWorks toolkit includes:

  • An interactive online interview to help individuals to understand their eligibility for naturalization;
  • A self-paced interactive tutorial that explains the naturalization process step-by-step;
  • An online tutorial to help applicants prepare for the naturalization tests; and
  • Links to other resources and information about citizenship and naturalization available online."

Same sex marriage and immigration, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Explains how to sponsor a same-sex spouse in immigration.

Understanding immigrants' eligibility for MassHealth & other subsidized coverage, Mass. Legal Services, 2022.
"Summarizes the current immigrant eligibility rules that MassHealth and the Health Connector use in making decisions about what kinds of coverage non-citizens with different kinds of status can receive."

Print sources

Contact

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Last updated: August 2, 2022
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