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Punitive ICE arrests make Mass. less safe

An officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement stood guard during an early-morning raid on a house in Riverside, Calif., in June. Melissa Lyttle/New York Times/File

The raids conducted this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, represent a new low for the Trump administration. The agency admitted it targeted so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, the states and cities that generally refuse to cooperate with the federal government since President Trump intensified its crackdown on illegal immigration. The four-day operation, netting nearly 500 arrests nationwide and 50 in the Bay State, is a deeply troubling development: The federal government is blatantly using a police force as a political tool and thwarting basic individual rights honored in the Massachusetts state constitution.

The Trump administration has officially dropped any pretense of only going after “bad hombres.” A local spokesman for ICE told the Globe this operation was different in that “this is focused on areas that have . . . self-proclaimed they are not going to cooperate with ICE.” According to the agency, 20 out of the 50 detained in Massachusetts had no criminal record at all.


Sanctuary jurisdictions are those localities that generally refuse to honor ICE detainers, or requests to hold an immigrant on a civil immigration violation. The massive bust follows a high-profile decision from the state’s highest court in July ruling that Massachusetts law provides no authority to arrest an immigrant solely for federal immigration purposes. Timing is everything: The ICE sweep is an assault on the state laws of Massachusetts and the judges who uphold them.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in July that nothing in state statutes or common law allows state court officers to hold undocumented residents on civil immigration matters. That decision, in Lunn v. Commonwealth, left ambiguity about its scope, however, and this page has called on the Legislature to resolve any lingering questions.

But it’s also worth noting that founding father John Adams wrote a ban on unjust seizures into the state constitution in 1780. Massachusetts courts, he wrote, shouldn’t deprive anyone of their freedom without “formalities prescribed by the laws.” That’s exactly what the ICE dragnet is circumventing.


The Trump administration’s claim that so-called sanctuary jurisdictions harbor dangerous criminals has never been supported by the evidence. “It is a complete and utter perversion of the facts to say that sanctuary cities keep immigrants safe from immigration authorities,” said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

ICE can enforce immigration law wherever it wants: in a church, in a mosque, in a sanctuary city. But that doesn’t mean it should. The Trump administration is wielding its power in a cruel and vindictive way. It’s beneath the president — even this president.