ACLU of Massachusetts Blasts Governor’s Plan to Use State Police as Federal Immigration Agents

June 22, 2006 12:00 am

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Plan Will Undermine Public Safety and Civil Liberties, Says ACLU

BOSTON — A plan by Governor Mitt Romney to use state police as federal immigration agents will undermine public safety by diverting scarce police resources away from real crime fighting and deterring residents from reporting crimes, while increasing the risk of illegal racial and ethnic profiling, said lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

“Requiring state police to do the work of federal immigration authorities diverts scarce law enforcement resources away from the work of preventing and investigating real crimes taking place in our communities,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “By undermining community policing efforts, the governor’s proposal will make our communities less safe, while increasing the chances that citizens and legal residents will be subject to illegal racial and ethnic profiling.”

Governor Romney’s plan is based on a 1996 law that permits the state to deputize certain members of the state police to detain and arrest residents for civil immigration violations, even if no state law has been violated.

“Police chiefs in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, DC and elsewhere have spoken out against commandeering local police to do the work of federal immigration agents,” said Rose. “They know that using local or state police to do the work of the federal immigration authorities undermines the efforts – and successes – of state and local police who often work together to solve crimes. As word spreads in newcomer communities that police are acting as immigration agents, immigrants and their family members will be afraid to report crimes. Crimes will go unsolved and the safety of the entire community will be compromised.”

The governor’s plan has been criticized by victims’ rights groups, who fear that both witnesses and victims of crime will avoid going to the police if doing so will put them or someone in their family in the cross-hairs of federal immigration authorities.

There are nearly 11 million naturalized U.S. citizens and more than 25 million native-born citizens of Latin American and Asian descent. In 2000, immigrants made up 12.2 percent of the Massachusetts population, up from 9.5 percent in 1990. The immigrant population in the Bay State grew by 35 percent over the course of the decade, reaching 773,000 in 2000.

“One in seven Massachusetts residents was born in another country,” said Rose. “Romney’s plan increases the danger that some officers will detain people based on their race or ethnicity, leading to violations of the rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents whose only ‘offense’ is looking foreign.”

The ACLU will join a press conference with advocates for immigrants’ rights, victims’ rights, and other groups outside the governor’s office today, Thursday, June 22, at 1:00 p.m.

More information, including a list of law enforcement officials opposed to local enforcement of immigration law, can be found at

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