BOSTON (WHDH) — The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled Monday that state and local police cannot hold illegal immigrants unless they’ve committed a crime. Now, one sheriff is seeking support from lawmakers on a separate bill that would give them that very ability.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told 7News that he was caught off guard by this ruling from the state’s highest court.
“I was actually pretty shocked,” Hodgson said.
The court found that under Massachusetts state law, local officers have no authority to arrest or hold someone for a civil immigration matter unless they are facing criminal charges.
“It was hard for me to understand why any court would put an obstacle in the path of law enforcement and our ability to partner with our fellow law enforcement officers to keep our people and our communities safe,” Hodgson said.
The sheriff and a small group of Republicans are looking to put a law on the books to let local authorities detain people for ICE. State Rep. Jim Lyons, one of the sponsors of the bill, says it’s all about public safety.
“This is simply a use of tax dollars to protect the citizens. It’s common sense,” Lyons said.
In a statement, ICE told 7News that the ruling “weakens local law enforcement agencies’ ability to protect their communities.” But Democratic Senator Jamie Eldridge said he supports the ruling.
“That is a key part of the Safe Communities Act bill I filed, so we’re very pleased with that protection for civil rights for all residents,” Eldridge said.
Eldridge is the lead sponsor of a bill that would make Massachusetts a sanctuary state. He called the Republican legislation a waste of taxpayer money.
“I’m very disappointed though not surprised by some of my Republican colleagues filing this bill. I’m hoping Gov. Baker will oppose it because it’s a troubling expansion of police power that will make us less safe,” Eldridge said.
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