Thursday, 4:30 PM
Patrick rescinds Romney's immigration plan, will instead train correction officers
By Jon Saltzman, Globe Staff, and Andrew Ryan, Globe Correspondent
Governor Deval Patrick today announced a plan to train 12 correction officers in two state prisons to enforce limited immigration laws as he rescinded a controversial agreement made in the waning days of the Romney administration to have state police hunt for illegal immigrants.
The 12 officers will be stationed at MCI Concord and MCI Framingham and will only scrutinize inmates who have already been convicted of crimes to determine if they are in the country illegally. The officers will have the power to initiate deportation proceedings and will notify the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"It has worked in other states," Patrick said at a news conference as he stood next to Kevin M. Burke, the new Secretary of Public Safety. Patrick added that the steps represented, "two actions that balance the responsible to ensure pubic safety and to address illegal immigration."
Then Governor Mitt Romney signed the 15-page agreement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Dec. 13 that would have allowed specially deputized state troopers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants and charge them with violating US immigration laws.
During his campaign, Patrick called the plan a “gimmick” and told reporters on Dec. 21 that he would quash the agreement shortly after taking office. About 30 troopers had been scheduled to take a five-week training course early next year.
Burke, the Secretary of Public Safety, said at today's press conference that both the state police and federal immigration officials prefer the use of correction officers to assist federal authorities. Romney’s plan, Burke said, would have meant additional duties for an agency that is already stretched thin.
Instead, the 12 correction officers will receive four weeks of special training from ICE officials. The training will include specifics about the scope of their immigration authority; briefings on immigration and civil rights law; and instruction in federal and international rules for the treatment of foreign-born prisoners.
Similar agreements have been signed with state corrections departments in California, Florida and Arizona, according to the Patrick administration.
In Massachusetts, there are about 700 illegal immigrants in the prison system, Burke estimated. As part of the initiative, the administration will launch an outreach campaign to familiarize people with the new program so that families of those affected will understand their rights.