Press Release

Immigrants' Rights

ACLU of Massachusetts challenges ICE detainer policy

The ACLU of Massachusetts today is filing an amicus brief in support of defense attorney organizations in a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case on whether it is permissible for state and local law enforcement officers to hold people on “ICE detainers.” These detainers are requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for state and local officers to keep people in state custody for up to 48 hours after they would otherwise have to be released – in the absence of any new criminal charges – so that ICE may take them into federal immigration custody.

Together with Ropes & Gray and immigrants’ rights attorneys, the ACLU of Massachusetts is filing the amicus brief with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) on behalf of Bristol County Bar Advocates, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Pilgrim Advocates, and Suffolk Lawyers for Justice.

“We pioneer freedom here in Massachusetts, and Commonwealth v. Lunn is yet another opportunity to set an important precedent nationwide that we are a country that believes in liberty and justice for all,” said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU of Massachusetts. “This filing is about protecting freedoms and upholding the rule of law.”

According to the amicus brief, Massachusetts law enforcement officers cannot arrest people merely because someone else asks them to do so, even if that someone else is the federal government. Yet, across the Commonwealth, that is happening. Each of these detentions violates the Massachusetts and United States Constitutions.  

The brief also argues that, in light of President Trump’s discriminatory statements and his Administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement policies, the SJC should use its superintendence power over the state judiciary to guide or limit how Massachusetts court officers assist with federal immigration enforcement.

“Beyond the immense human impact, enforcing ICE detainers has a substantial effect on client representation by blocking attorneys from meeting constitutional and ethical obligations to defend their clients,” said Matt Segal, legal director at ACLU of Massachusetts. “Just as important, the President’s numerous discriminatory statements raise serious concerns that when state and local officers volunteer to assist immigration officers, they are needlessly entangling themselves in a discriminatory and standardless enforcement regime.”

For more information about Commonwealth v. Lunnclick here.

For more information about how the ACLU of Massachusetts is defending immigrants’ rights, click here.

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