Statement on Massachusetts Sanctuary Legislation

State House, Boston, Mass.

By Jessica M. Vaughan on January 24, 2020

Statement of Jessica Vaughan

Director of Policy Studies

Center for Immigration Studies

Press Conference on Sanctuary Legislation

State House, Boston, Massachusetts

January 24, 2020

Good morning, and thank you for your interest in today's hearing on bills that would impose a state-wide sanctuary law in Massachusetts. This legislation would be disastrous for the people of the Commonwealth. Not only would this terribly compromise public safety and immigration enforcement, it would further encourage illegal settlement in Massachusetts, straining public services for all. Because the provisions proposed are contrary to federal law, enactment of any of these bills could also expose Massachusetts taxpayers to costly litigation, federal sanctions, and debarment from vital forms of federal funding. Moreover, enactment of the bills would not accomplish the purported goal of increasing access to justice for immigrants.

Today, lawmakers will be considering a slate of six bills, all of which except one (the Du Bois bill, HB 2059) have the common purpose of limiting the ability of immigration officers to gain custody of non-citizens who have come to their attention after arrest by local law enforcement agencies. It is important to note that more than 90 percent of ICE's caseload is criminal aliens; the remaining 10 percent are prior deportees, people who skipped out on prior proceedings, or who otherwise are egregious immigration scofflaws.

These bills attempt to substitute the opinion of a group of state lawmakers for the federal immigration enforcement system stipulated in our Constitution, enacted by the U.S. Congress, and enforced by our federal agencies. These bills would decree that only some of the so-called "worst of the worst" non-citizen offenders can be subject to deportation — and only if they can be caught after local officials let them back on the streets. Supporters of these bills want to deny federal immigration officers the ability to do their job — a job that contributes enormously to public safety, and a job that is necessary to preserve the integrity of our legal immigration system.

These bills will mandate the release of deportable non-citizen offenders who should instead be transferred to ICE custody for removal after their criminal cases are completed. We know all too painfully what happens under this system. It guarantees that non-citizens who are a threat to public safety are allowed to return to the community, often to re-offend, or to flee the country and escape justice.

The most recent example of the consequences of extreme sanctuary policies occurred recently in New York City. In November, Reeaz Khan was arrested and then arraigned for charges in a violent assault on his father. Because he was known to be in the country illegally after overstaying a visa, ICE issued a detainer, requesting notification of Khan's release. Under the New York City sanctuary policy, which is very similar to the bills before this legislature today, the jail officers were not permitted to tell ICE when Khan would be released so that ICE could arrest him on immigration charges and hold him pending trial for the assault. Instead, Khan was released. Just six weeks later, on January 10, Khan was again arrested, this time for the murder, sexual abuse, contact by forcible compulsion, and sexual abuse against a 92-year-old woman.

With just a simple phone call, ICE could have been alerted to take custody of Khan, keeping him off the streets. But even this simple communication — not requiring the expenditure of local funds, or requiring the locals to hold Khan beyond his release — would have saved the victim's life.

This is precisely the kind of routine and vital inter-agency communication that the sanctuary supporters intend to prevent.

Similar phone calls would have prevented the release of numerous others in the few sanctuary jurisdictions in Massachusetts. Examples can be found in this report I prepared using records released by the Boston ICE field office. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also has published information of numerous examples from other jurisdictions with sanctuary policies. Nationally, more than 10,000 deportable criminal offenders have been tallied who committed additional crimes after release required under sanctuary policies.

ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence stated a week ago that New York law enforcement agencies were forced to ignore more than 7,500 ICE detainers last year, filed on deportable criminals convicted or charged with 200 homicides, 500 robberies, 1,000 sex assaults, 1,000 weapons charges, and 1,500 DUIs. ICE has stated that the recidivism rate for these deportable criminals is approximately 50 percent.

If this legislation is passed here, we can expect to witness a proportionately sized crime spree and a long list of victims who could have been spared if ICE were allowed to do its good work. Each of the bills under consideration today — and Governor Baker's favored proposal — would release Khan and others in similar circumstances, instead of alerting ICE or holding him for ICE. Each of these proposals will expose our communities to offenders who should instead be sent home.

This is an unacceptable public safety cost that is a direct result of the politicization of immigration enforcement. Local law enforcement authorities should be able to cooperate with ICE as they would with any other law enforcement agency, including by honoring their detainers and arrest warrants. Federal law does not require ICE to produce special "judicial warrants". They are a legal fiction. No judge has the authority to provide that warrant; it doesn't exist. They are a fig leaf to provide an excuse to obstruct immigration enforcement.

Ironically, these sanctuary policies do not stop ICE, but they do force the agency to send ICE officers into neighborhoods, public buildings, work places and other sites to do their job, at more risk to ICE officers and the public.

Supporters of sanctuary policies say that they aim to dispel fear in immigrant communities that local law enforcement officers will report them to ICE. But immigrants for the most part do not fear the police, according to federal studies. The truth is that they fear the criminals who are being allowed to return to their communities to continue preying on victims.

Make no mistake, we have learned the hard way that these bills will not protect the residents of Massachusetts, they will protect the criminal aliens.

As an aside, the Du Bois bill, HB2059, is not a sanctuary bill. It requires transparency and the disclosure of records kept in connection with the 287(g) partnership programs. This would be a constructive and helpful requirement, providing the public with additional information on the operation of 287(g) programs and the enormous contribution they make to public safety in the Commonwealth.