Immigrants’ Rights

If you are being detained at Logan Airport or know someone who is, please contact us: info@aclum.org.

Know Your Rights: What To Do When Encountering Law Enforcement at Airports and Other Ports of Entry into the U.S.

Know Your Rights: What To Do When Faced With Anti-Muslim Discrimination (available in English, Arabic and Urdu)


When the government has the power to deny legal rights and due process to one vulnerable group, everyone’s rights are at risk.

The ACLU of Massachusetts defends the constitutional rights of all people, regardless of where they came from, through targeted impact litigation, advocacy and public outreach. We are fighting back against draconian federal immigration policies and local anti-immigrant policies, and for the rights of all Massachusetts residents to be safe and free in their communities.

In recent years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained and deported record numbers of people from the United States. The various methods by which ICE identifies people who may be removable non-citizens, apprehends them, and puts them into the deportation pipeline raise a number of constitutional concerns.

ICE relies heavily on using state and local law enforcement agencies as “force multipliers,” allowing ICE to extend its reach into communities across the United States in ways that are less resource-intensive and less visible than raids. This includes the 287(g) program, by which ICE contractually delegates certain immigration enforcement powers to state or local law enforcement agents. This also includes the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), Secure Communities/PEP, and the widespread use of ICE “detainers,” all of which give ICE physical or virtual access to people in state or local law enforcement custody for the purpose of identifying, investigating, and assuming custody of them.  The ACLU is committed to establishing and enforcing constitutional limits on ICE’s use of these programs through both advocacy and litigation.

How do ICE detainers make cities into “force multipliers” for ICE?

ICE detainers, also known as ICE holds or immigration detainers, are requests that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sends to local enforcement agencies (e.g. police, sheriff, local jail) asking for information about a person who is about to be released from custody and/or asking that the local agency hold that person for an extra amount of time in order to facilitate their deportation.

Detainers are one of the primary ways in which ICE is able to identify and deport large numbers of people. By using the resources of local police departments as “force multipliers” they increase the reach of the federal government.

For more information, click here.

Why are “sanctuary cities” and TRUST Acts important?

Around the country, more than 400 cities, towns, and counties have implemented policies limiting local collaboration with federal deportation efforts. Known as “Trust Acts” or “Sanctuary City” policies, each locality has decided for itself the scope of those limitations. Even though they may differ in the details, the unifying themes are of welcoming communities and communities that don’t do ICE’s job for it.

These policies address the fear in immigrant communities that any contact with a local police officer could lead to being deported. Such fear affects public safety because when people distrust law enforcement, they don’t report crime and they don’t call the police when they need help.

The policies also send a strong message that localities do not wish to involve themselves in a broken and unjust immigration system. Learn how to make your city or town a sanctuary here.

How do 287(g) programs damage community-law enforcement relations?

The “Section 287(g)” program deputizes local law enforcement officials to act as federal immigration agents, giving them the power to initiate the deportation process and help. The program dramatically expands ICE’s reach across the country while localities foot the bill.

The ACLU has strongly opposed the 287(g) program, believing it has led to illegal racial profiling and civil rights abuses while diverting scarce resources from traditional local law enforcement functions and breaking down community trust.

When local officials are also ICE agents, community-police relations break down.

How are we combatting ICE detention?

In 2014, we won a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the government’s overuse of mandatory immigration detention to imprison non-citizens—many of them longtime, lawful permanent residents, such as our client Clayton Gordon—without bond while their immigration cases are pending. As of January 2015, thanks to a court order in this case, more than 50 people have been released from immigration detention and reunited with their families.

The ACLU of Massachusetts is fighting to ensure that non-citizens who are placed in immigration proceedings receive a fair and individual determination of whether detention during their removal proceedings is warranted. The ACLU has challenged the government’s application of “mandatory” immigration detention and the adequacy of the procedures used to determine whether non-citizens will be detained or released during their immigration proceedings.

For more, click here.

How can you take action for immigrants’ rights?

  • Advocate for your community to become a sanctuary city or campus.
  • Urge your state legislators to support legislation like the Safe Communities Act to support all people, regardless of immigration status. Find out who your legislators are and how to contact them here.
  • Know your rights and stay informed.
  • Organize your city or town to pass a sanctuary ordinance. Learn how here.
  • Show up to events in your area to show your support for immigrants’ rights.
  • Share this page with three friends. Make sure they know what is at stake.
  • Contribute to our work. Your contributions make it possible for us to fight against ICE abuses and work with communities fighting to become sanctuary cities.

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