The feds can handle it

Monday, October 7, 2013
Herald Staff

Critics of Secure Communities want to de-fang the federal immigration enforcement program by changing Massachusetts law — because, of course, there is nothing beyond the power of our mighty Legislature, at least in the minds of some of its members.

The so-called “Trust Act” is designed to blunt the allegedly damaging effects of the federal program that requires local police to enter the names of defendants into a federal database, which then alerts Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the individual is in the U.S. illegally.

At the state and local level the program is mostly about paperwork — once the name is “in the system” it’s left to ICE to determine whether to begin immigration enforcement proceedings. And of course the Obama administration has in the last year directed ICE to focus efforts on those with criminal records — while exempting whole categories of “low-priority” offenders.

Still, immigrant advocates insist that Secure Communities has shattered the trust between the immigrant community and local cops. So they’re pushing a bill sponsored by Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) and Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford) that would limit local authorities in the enforcement of federal immigration detainers; require that a suspect in local custody have access to a lawyer before being interviewed by ICE; and effectively block local cooperation in the absence of a federal criminal warrant.

We know Sciortino is campaigning for a seat in Congress, but he’s getting a bit ahead of himself in the shaping of federal policy, don’t you think?