Posted at 5:47 PM
Updated at 5:47 PM

The Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissions has thrown its support behind an effort by Barnstable County Sheriff Joseph Cummings to have his officers deputized to act as federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

According to county commissioner Ron Beaty, the commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to “send a letter of support regarding County Sheriff Jim Cummings and his great staff of professionals to participate with federal authorities in detaining criminal illegal aliens on Cape Cod.”

Barnstable County is one of 26 jurisdictions whose applications to participate in ICE’s 287g program will be considered on Nov. 14 at a meeting of DHS’s Program Advisory Board.

Under the program, state and local law enforcement agencies agree to be trained by ICE to carry out federal immigration enforcement policies. Currently, 60 law enforcement agencies in 18 states have 287g agreements, almost all of them in the South and Southwest. Just three are in New England: the state Department of Correction and the sheriff’s departments of Plymouth and Bristol counties.

“The program would give us direct access to ICE databases and training relative to ICE procedures and policy,” Cummings said in a Nov. 2 email response to a query from The Cape Codder’s sister publication Provincetown Banner.

Giving county officers access to individuals’ immigration status, he wrote, “will enable them to expedite the process to obtain a valid detainer.”

“Detainers” enable police to hold people whose criminal proceedings have been settled and who would otherwise be released, to buy time for ICE to pursue deportation. They are not the same as arrest warrants, as they do not require proof of probable cause.

The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled last July that the detainer process by local law enforcement is unconstitutional in Massachusetts. With a 287g agreement, Cummings’ officers would be deputized to act as federal ICE agents, and thus not subject to Massachusetts law.

Megan O’Kane of DHS headquarters confirmed that ICE’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Committee is part of the advisory board that will decide on Barnstable’s application. She said the meeting on Barnstable’s application “will be held in Washington, D.C., and will not be open to the public.”

Local citizens concerned about civil rights are working to reach DHS with objections before the meeting, according to Mark Gabriele, a leader of the Cape Cod Coalition for Safe Communities, an ad hoc group focused on immigration issues.