Suffolk County breakup with ICE a mixed bag

The number of county jails in Massachusetts that have contracts to hold detainees for federal immigration authorities is about to go down to three. Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins announced Tuesday evening the department is ending its contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

About 200 immigrants who are waiting for immigration court hearings, as well as those who have lost hearings and are waiting to be deported, are housed at the Suffolk County jail. Some are gang members and criminals with convictions, but others have no prior record, and are being detained solely because of their immigration status. 

Tompkins insists the severing of ties with ICE has nothing to do with immigration politics. He says he needs to make room for the provision of rehabilitation services to women who will be transferred to the 1,200-bed South Bay House of Correction beginning this week from Essex, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties. About 100 women are housed there now, and up to 250 more will be transferred soon.

“This is not about ICE, this is not about Trump, this is not about the federal government, this is about saving lives,” Tompkins said

But the Boston Herald is describing Tompkins’ decision as “the latest clash between Massachusetts liberal pols and ICE.”

The South End correctional facility has borne the brunt of immigration protests this summer, with almost 1,000 Jewish activists and anti-detention protesters marching to the jail in protest of President Trump’s immigrant detention policies. Eighteen people were arrested and later released.

Todd Lyons, the ICE New England field office deputy director, said his agency has paid the jail $117 million since 2003. Tompkins, however, said his office hasn’t received any of the money for holding ICE detainees since 2009, when all of the funds were diverted to the state’s general fund.

The move by Tompkins leaves just Bristol, Plymouth, and Franklin counties with ICE contracts.

“This is going to have a huge impact on our day-to-day operations,” Lyons told the Boston Herald, citing the jail’s proximity to the airport and federal immigration court in Boston.  

Immigrant advocates are treading carefully in proclaiming victory on the ending of the contract. One less open facility often just means that other jails will attempt to acquire the contract. It also means that the families and attorneys of detainees will have to travel longer distances to meet with them. In addition to capacity at the Plymouth, Bristol, and Franklin county jails, federal authorities can send detainees to two other ICE-contracted jails — one in New Hampshire and the other in Rhode Island. 

“One of the concerns is people might be sent to other detention facilities in states that are far from their families and where they have less support and immigration courts are less likely to grant them relief,” said Oren Nimni, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights

Carol Rose, the executive director of the America Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said she is hoping  the decision presents an opportunity “for ICE to release needlessly-detained people.” 

SARAH BETANCOURT


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature seem to be at odds on transportation funding. Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack insists a fee on carbon in auto fuels is a cap and invest program, not a tax. (CommonWealth)

The problems at the Registry of Motor Vehicles extend beyond its historic failure to communicate with other states about driving infractions. (Boston Globe)

A bill limiting step therapy pits patients against insurers (MassLive) Jen Melanson of Townsend says it’s time to rein in the practice. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno says he will veto any measure approved by the City 

Council that limits use of facial recognition technology. (MassLive)

Lynn has become an enticing area to build, according to developer Mike Procopio, but anti-gentrification activists warn that residents are being priced out and say the city has been too generous with tax breaks for developers. (WBUR

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Calling it “illegitimate,” the White House essentially declared war on the impeachment inquiry and announced that Trump administration officials would not willingly testify or provide documents. (New York Times)

Gordon Sondland, the hotelier, Republican donor and US ambassador to the European Union, said he was on “special assignment” to Ukraine right when President Trump asked for an investigation of Joe Biden, but it’s not clear what that assignment was or who it was designed to benefit. (New York Times

President Trump’s statements about Turkey’s imminent invasion of Syria have sown confusion and fear around the world, and generated interest in what exactly was said on his call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. (Washington Post

Kurdish groups are holding a protest outside the State House today warning that Turkey’s impending invasion of Syria could lead to genocide. (WGBH)

ELECTIONS

The Boston Globe credits Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her decisiveness in ousting national organizing director Richard McDaniel, but the paper wants more details of his alleged “inappropriate behavior.” 

People have donated $3.8 billion to Democratic candidates over the years through the Somerville-based Act Blue application. (WGBH

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Weymouth town councilors want local and state officials to negotiate with the owners of a controversial digital billboard on Route 3 to come up with a plan for taking the sign down and compensating the advertising company for its losses. (Patriot Ledger) 

EDUCATION

Clark University has settled a lawsuit filed by a student who claimed he was a victim of hazing. Details of the settlement were not available. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Health officials in Falmouth are considering tightening local regulations to make it more difficult for underage users to get flavored tobacco products, even though a few Barnstable County communities have already taken the step. (Cape Cod Times) 

Residents in one of New Bedford’s most affluent wards are pushing back against a proposal that would bring struggling addicts further into their neighborhood. Ward 5 Councilor Scott Lima estimated that 100 people came to a meeting he held at Lawler Library about a proposed addiction treatment center. (Standard Times)

ARTS/CULTURE

Cityspace, the nonprofit seeking to restore Old Town Hall in Easthampton, receives a $500,000 donation from donors who wish to remain anonymous (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

A proposed new Fall River cultural district that local officials hope will bolster tourism and artistic pursuits was received favorably by city councilors Tuesday, and could be approved as early as January. (Herald News) 

Mystery street art appears to honor antiwar activist Frances Crowe, who died at the age of 100 in August. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION 

Transportation notes: Gov. Charlie Baker forecasts 100 million Uber, Lyft rides this year…CLF ready to sue over HOV lane,..Which is it? Is T on a hiring spree or a hiring freeze? (CommonWealth)

A poll conducted by the Worcester Free Fare Task Force finds 90 percent of those surveyed support doing away with fares at the Worcester Regional Transit Authority. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Boston Globe photographed the delivery of two new Red Line cars manufactured by CRRC, which will undergo extensive testing before being put into service. 

WCVB looks at some of the causes of Boston’s traffic congestion, including more people, more jobs, and 1 million more cars registered in the state since 2010. 

During the busy Halloween season, Salem is banning electric scooters from its downtown area during weekends. (Salem News

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Owen Foote, a 20-year-old Methuen man, will spend up to six months incarcerated for committing motor vehicular homicide in a crash where he was traveling twice the speed limit and struck a vehicle that had the right of way – killing 17-year-old Jordan Rankin. (Eagle-Tribune

The Cambridge Police Department has determined the people who accosted Celtics center Enes Kanter outside a mosque didn’t commit a crime, but they are still interested in hearing from people with information about the incident. (Boston Globe

A US Marine on leave is wanted in the death of 19-year-old Emerson College student Daniel Hollis, who suffered a fatal brain injury in a late-night fight in Allston on Sept. 28, the Marine Corps said in a statement Tuesday. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Humorist, author, and media personality Garrison Keillor, a #MeToo casualty, charms the audience at an event in New Marlborough. (Berkshire Eagle)

PASSINGS
Mardee Xifaris, the “first woman of South Coast politics,” at 74. (Standard-Times)