Governor Deval Patrick's opponents in the governor's race blasted him today for not signing up for a controversial federal program designed to identify and deport illegal immigrants arrested for serious crimes.
“It’s outrageous the governor is dragging his feet on signing an agreement with federal immigration officials for a year now,” Republican Charles D. Baker said at a press conference with former US Attorney Michael Sullivan outside the State House. “Governor Patrick needs to step up and sign this agreement.”
Independent candidate Timothy P. Cahill, the state treasurer, also urged Patrick to join the program, a version of which Boston joined in 2006. “It has already been a proven success in the City of Boston, and now we must give all local police departments the ability to implement it in their communities,” Cahill wrote in a letter to the governor.
But Patrick administration officials said they have concerns that the program ensnares not just violent criminals but also those arrested for low-level infractions such as traffic offenses and youthful misconduct. The program, which began under President George W. Bush and has been greatly expanded by President Obama, requires law enforcement agencies to run fingerprints through federal immigration databases for anyone they arrest.
“We absolutely agree that Level 1 offenders characterized by [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] are the people we want off the streets of Massachusetts, and we are working with ICE to make clear that this is what we want to work with them on,” said Mary Beth Heffernan, the state secretary of public safety. “We remain concerned that this program provides a sweep of folks that get caught up in unintended consequences of this law, which is really aimed at violent, Level 1 offenders.”
Level 1 offenses, as defined by ICE, include crimes such as kidnapping, homicide, sexual assault, robbery, extortion, gun possession, and drug dealing.
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