Could MA Set U.S. Legal Precedent on Sanctuary Cities?
BOSTON – Amherst, Cambridge and Northampton are among the Massachusetts cities now under threat of losing federal funding for grants and programs because of their sanctuary city stance.
This week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the threat to divert billions of dollars away from so-called sanctuary cities.
Now, Laura Rotolo, immigration counsel with the ACLU of Massachusetts, says there are plenty of reasons for local cities and counties to stand their ground.
"We believe it amounts to unconstitutional coercion,” she states. “And it makes cities choose between doing what's legal and right for their communities, and undermining public safety."
Rotolo notes that sanctuary cities also have lower crime rates by welcoming immigrants instead of detaining them, in part because undocumented immigrants are more willing to cooperate with local police.
Sessions contends countless lives have been lost due to sanctuary city policies, and he intends to penalize them with funding cuts.
Matt Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, says some local laws limit the amount of information that can be shared with immigration authorities.
Just last week, the ACLU filed a legal brief in a Massachusetts case that challenges the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detention policy. Segal says it could be a good test case for the nation.
"And that seems particularly likely with immigration detainers, because what immigration detainers are, is requests,” he explains. “The federal government really hasn't weighed in on whether it is permissible for the recipients of these requests, namely the states, to actually abide by them. And so, we need some law on that."
Segal points out that on other issues, including same sex marriage and policing, Massachusetts' legal precedents have made a difference nationally.
A representative for Mayor Marty Walsh says the Boston Trust Act, which prohibits Boston Police from holding undocumented immigrants so that ICE agents can deport them, does not violate federal immigration laws.