Key features of the Safe Communities Act
In the current climate, immigrants in Massachusetts are increasingly vulnerable and isolated, avoiding medical treatment, emergency services, and court or police protection for fear that they or their family members will be deported. The Safe Communities Act restores confidence in local public institutions by allowing our police and court officials to focus on public safety instead of getting tangled up in immigration enforcement.
1. No questions about immigration status:
Bars law enforcement and court personnel from asking people about their status unless required by law. The State Police already have a similar policy. Many immigrants fear that calling 911 or speaking to police will lead to separation from family members – especially children –making them more vulnerable to domestic abuse, wage theft and other crimes. This provision would send a strong message that in our Commonwealth, police protect us all.
2. Protects due process:
Before Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) questions someone in local custody, requires police to obtain their consent using a form that explains their right to decline an interview or have their own attorney present. Without these protections, people often make statements or sign documents jeopardizing their immigration cases. Non-citizens often unaware of these rights, because “Miranda” warnings are not required in the civil immigration context.
3. Limits notifications to ICE:
Bars police, court officers and jail officials from notifying ICE that someone is about to be released. This would help ensure that people aren’t put in ICE detention before their cases are fully adjudicated, which denies justice to victims and due process to defendants. ICE may still be notified when a person is being released upon completing a jail or prison sentence.
4. No more 287(g) agreements:
Ends contracts with ICE that allow state and county personnel to act as federal immigration agents, at state taxpayers’ expense. Such contracts are the most extreme form of entanglement with ICE, and when they shift people into ICE custody before they can go to court, they undermine due process. Massachusetts is the only state in New England to have such agreements, and we have four: with Bristol, Barnstable and Plymouth counties, and the Department of Corrections.
5. Provides crucial training and accountability:
Requires law enforcement agencies to train their personnel about this law, and if there is an alleged violation, people can file a complaint with the relevant agency or the Attorney General. These provisions would help ensure transparency and tackle problems as they arise.