Report: ICE upping detainer requests in Mass.

Agency now seeks public’s help with wanted fliers

FEDERAL OFFICIALS are issuing more warrants for wanted undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts, even as the number of warrants is declining nationally.

The warrants, often called detainers, are requests for assistance from Massachusetts law enforcement and court officials in tracking down undocumented immigrants wanted for crimes.

According to research conducted by Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration project, the number of detainer requests jumped nearly 13 percent in fiscal 2019 while nationally the number declined by 7 percent. Detainer requests in Massachusetts rose from 1,547 in fiscal 2018 to 1,748 in fiscal 2019, which ended at the end of June last year.

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for the regional office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said the national numbers are down because “resources have been diverted to the southwestern border.”

As for the increase in Massachusetts, Neudauer responded with a question. “Why do people come to the US illegally?” he asked.

Despite the fact that some Massachusetts municipalities are currently not honoring ICE detainers, Neudauer said the agency is issuing them anyway.

“It’s ICE’s job to do these things,” he said. “We still issue detainers even though an agency doesn’t honor them. ”

The main barrier that stands between ICE’s desire to detain immigrants with criminal charges and convictions is Lunn vs. Commonwealth, a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision. That decision held that local law enforcement officials do not have authority, under state law, to detain an individual who is free to leave a jail based only on a federal immigration official detainer request.

Todd Lyons, the regional ICE New England field director, recently said that so-called sanctuary policies, including the Boston Trust Act, which was tightened by the City Council to limit communication between the Boston Police Department and ICE, have created hurdles for the agency in winning support for detainer requests.

“We’ve seen an uptick in criminal alien releases since recent…sanctuary policies, like the Boston Trust Act, and some Massachusetts Supreme Court decisions, like the Lunn decision,” said Lyons. “So we’re seeing a lot more of the criminal element released back to the street.”

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.

There have been 600 detainers issued in New England since October 1, a small portion of the 50,000 issued nationwide across the country, according to ICE. There are about 300 immigrants with criminal charges or convictions currently being detained by the agency in Massachusetts.

To work around sanctuary city policies and the Supreme Judicial Court decision, ICE is putting out public fliers through the media and online listing “fugitives released into Boston communities.” The fliers list the person’s name, country of origin, crime, and the jurisdiction that refused to cooperate with ICE, along with a tip line.

ICE’s new approach has netted three out of seven wanted people initially listed in their flyer, posted over a week ago, but local immigration advocates are decrying the policy. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy coalition, which represents many groups, is calling the new approach, and increase of border patrol officers an “unwarranted and potentially dangerous escalation of immigration enforcement.”