BOSTON — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is working on a bill in response to a court ruling that forbids police officers in Massachusetts from holding a person based solely on a federal immigration detainer request.
Lizzy Guyton, the governor’s communication director, said Wednesday the state police will continue to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by notifying ICE of the arrest and impending release of criminals sought by federal authorities.
Guyton said the administration is “currently exploring legislative options that will give formal legal authority to the state police to further cooperate with ICE by detaining individuals convicted of violent crimes such as murder or rape when ICE is unable to respond immediately to take them into custody.”
Guyton said Baker doesn’t support Massachusetts becoming a sanctuary state.
Baker’s action comes as some of his fellow Republicans urged the Democratic-controlled Legislature earlier Wednesday to respond quickly to the court ruling.
Immigration activists repeatedly interrupted the House GOP lawmakers with chants of “keep hate out of our state” during a news conference at the Statehouse to discuss the bill they filed after Monday’s ruling by the state’s highest court.
The legislation would give police officers broad power to arrest and hold an individual, without a warrant, if the officers or the law enforcement agency they serve have a lawfully-issued immigration detainer from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Supreme Judicial Court said Massachusetts law does not currently give officers that authority, absent a criminal violation or other reason to keep a person in custody.
The American Civil Liberties Union praised the decision, calling it a first of its kind in the country.
Republicans argued it would put the safety of the state’s residents at risk.
“This ruling ties the hands of all law enforcement officers and prohibits them from doing their jobs, which is to keep our communities safe,” said Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, of Taunton. “It makes Massachusetts a safe haven for illegal immigrants. It opens the floodgates and says ‘if you come here, you get a get out of jail free card.'”
There was no indication that Democrats would consider the Republican bill anytime soon. Some legislators, in fact, had already been supporting, prior to the SJC ruling, a bill that would sharply limit cooperation between federal immigration officials and state and local law enforcement agencies, making Massachusetts a de facto “sanctuary state.”
Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, an organization that supports Latino immigrants, said the Republican bill was driven by “hate and ignorance.” She led a small group of protesters who frequently interrupted lawmakers as they tried to address reporters.
“Be respectful and do not interrupt,” implored Rep. James Lyons, an Andover Republican. Lyons later accepted an invitation to meet privately with the group in the future.
Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, a Republican known for hard-line stances on immigration, said the protesters were violating his First Amendment rights by trying to speak over him. Montes responded that Hodgson was violating the rights of immigrants.
“The message they are sending is that all undocumented people in Massachusetts are criminals, are rapists, are drug dealers, and that’s not the case,” Montes said.
Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the first name of Rep. O’Connell is Shaunna, not Shauna.