Immigration-related arrests down in New England

Keeping ICE out of courthouses may be a factor

NEW ENGLAND is seeing the lowest number of immigration-related arrests just months after Suffolk and Middlesex District Attorneys Rachael Rollins and Marian Ryan filed a federal lawsuit to keep federal immigration authorities out of courthouses–and won, albeit temporarily.

The impacts of that preliminary injunction came into full display on Wednesday when US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that New England saw its lowest number of immigration-related arrests in two years. While many regions across the US similarly mentioned numbers of arrests dipping due to spreading sanctuary city policies, Marcos Charles, acting field director of the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arm, said the injunction, which keeps ICE agents from detaining individuals in and around county courthouses, has played a role.

“The secure environment of a jail or a courthouse where we can easily take that person into custody has been taken away in that jurisdiction,” he said. “Not only is it more of a danger to the officers, now you’re putting officers into residential communities looking for the targeted aliens.”

According to MassLive, Charles said there’s a greater likelihood that officers will encounter and detain undocumented immigrants with no criminal records by looking for individuals in their communities instead of at courthouses.

Lawyers for Civil Rights estimated ICE made more than 100 courthouse arrests statewide the year before the temporary injunction.

ICE’s Boston field office, which oversees the New England states, made 2,469 administrative arrests in fiscal 2019, a 15 percent drop from the previous year. Nationwide, the number of individuals arrested by ICE dropped by nearly 10 percent. Civil arrests of convicted criminals dropped 12 percent. The agency says enforcement activity also dropped in many states because hundreds of officers were reassigned to support southwest border operations. The Boston office would not release numbers on how many local officers were deployed to the border.

Charles told MassLive he’s less concerned about the lower number of arrests, and more about elected officials impacting the agency’s ability to detain criminals.

“Any time a politician or an elected official uses law enforcement as a political tool, it puts the whole community in danger,” he said. “By limiting law enforcement’s ability, they are directly affecting the safety of the community.”

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

While agency officials aren’t pleased with Rollins or Ryan, they’re also incensed at area “sanctuary cities,” which have municipal rules to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, and often order local law enforcement officials not to comply with federal immigration detainers.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone told the Boston Herald that sanctuary cities are generally safer. “In fact, due to several factors, Somerville’s crime rate is down 50 percent since we became a sanctuary city more than 30 years ago,” he said. “Our top priority is and will continue to be protecting and serving all of our residents. We won’t abandon our values just because this administration is trying to make our communities out to be the boogeyman.”