Policy

Baker’s ICE Cooperation Bill Isn’t Sitting Well

The ACLU and others say it's a bad idea that links the guv to Trump.

Photo via Governor’s Office

Seizing the opportunity to link the governor to Trump, opponents of Charlie Baker’s ICE cooperation bill are condemning the idea.

Baker says his is a sensible measure that would let authorities detain people with histories of violent crime when federal immigration authorities ask them to. It would not let state police arrest people for immigration violations but “would allow police to detain a person who is a threat to public safety for a limited period of time if that person were about to be released and the federal authorities were unable to immediately take the person into their custody,” says Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett, in a statement.

It would, Baker says, fill in a gap created in July when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that state police don’t have legal authority to detain undocumented immigrants for any longer than any other resident, even if the feds ask them to. The SJC ruling, which is believed to be the first of its kind, indicated that state police could impose the detentions if the legislature moved to allow it.

So that’s what Baker is trying to do. “For years, many local police departments and the Trial Court have cooperated with ICE to ensure that they can detain violent and dangerous criminals, convicted of crimes like murder and rape, to keep our communities safe,” Baker says in a statement. “This bill allows the State Police to honor specific detainers and provides local officials with the flexibility they need to set policies appropriate for their communities.”

But the ACLU disagrees, characterizing last month’s SJC decision as a “major victory for the residents of Massachusetts against the Trump deportation machine” and accusing Baker of cozying up to the president, who remains deeply unpopular here (a level of hatred matched only in Vermont) and who Baker has sought to distance himself from since the reality star’s campaign began. “Why Governor Baker would attempt to aid President Trump is unsettling – as both a legal and political matter,” ACLU of Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose tells the State House News Service.

Democratic candidate for governor Jay Gonzalez accused Baker of “going out of his way to try to help Donald Trump enforce immigration laws.” Said Setti Warren, another Dem candidate, “Police in Massachusetts should not be a part of Donald Trump’s deportation force.”

It’s not as extreme a move as the one called for by Republican lawmakers, including Rep. James Lyons, who wants to empower local authorities to act as federal immigration officers.

In a tweet, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, in a tweet referencing its organizing director Liza Ryan, put it this way: “Violating the constitution a little instead of a lot is still… unconstitutional. This is a bad bill.”


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com