State Police can now detain undocumented immigrants for feds

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, and Gov.-elect Charlie Baker shake hands during a news conference at the Statehouse in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Former Gov. Deval Patrick shakes hands with Gov. Charlie Baker in 2014. –AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has reversed a key policy on undocumented immigrants from the prior state leadership in order to align with a recently enacted federal program, state officials said.

State Police will now be allowed to temporarily detain undocumented immigrants who are under state arrest and who have been flagged by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Under former Gov. Deval Patrick, State Police had been barred from following ICE requests for temporary detention, and communication between the two agencies was limited.

The change puts the state in line with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), a federal program operated under the Department of Homeland Security. PEP seeks to prioritize deporting only those undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to the public.

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Patrick had enacted his administration’s policy in response to a previous federal immigration program called Secure Communities, which critics said deported non-violent undocumented immigrants. PEP replaced Secure Communities in July 2015.

“This policy revision gives the professionals of our statewide policing agency the tools necessary to detain criminals, gang members, or suspected terrorists wanted by federal authorities,” Baker said in a statement. “As before, the State Police will not be enforcing federal immigration law nor will they inquire about immigration status; they will now be able to assist in detaining for our federal partners individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety or national security.”

The change goes into effect on Thursday, officials said.

Under the federal PEP program, the ICE officials can request for State Police to detain only those removable aliens who are suspected of terrorism, convicted of gang-related crimes or felonies, or have three non-traffic-related misdemeanors.

“With their statewide jurisdiction, the State Police encounter a broad range of individuals on a daily basis and it makes sense from a public safety perspective to allow them to report and temporarily hold any type of individual wanted by federal authorities,” Secretary of Public Safety and Security Dan Bennett said in a statement.

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As with Patrick’s policy, state troopers are still not allowed to stop people to ask about their immigration status.

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