Civil rights group sues sheriff over immigration enforcement

PLYMOUTH — A Boston civil rights group is taking a sheriff’s office in Massachusetts to court over its involvement in federal immigration enforcement matters.
Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a petition with the state Supreme Judicial Court on Monday, asking the state’s highest court to nullify an agreement between Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald’s office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The so-called 287(g) agreement grants McDonald’s office, which oversees the county jail, authority to perform certain ICE duties, such as the arrest, interrogation and transportation of people suspected of violating immigration laws, Lawyers for Civil Rights said. It also gives its corrections officers access to ICE databases and training programs.
But Lawyers for Civil Rights argues there is nothing in the state’s constitution or laws granting local sheriff offices the power to enter such agreements. It also cites a 2017 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling that local law enforcement can’t detain people solely on the basis of a federal civil immigration violation.
Juan Cofield, president of the New England chapter of the NAACP and one of 28 petitioners named in the suit, said the ICE agreement and others like it in Massachusetts and elsewhere sow fear in immigrant communities and drain state resources.
“We shouldn’t be diverting limited state money to federal immigration enforcement, especially when we need all available resources to get through the pandemic,” he said in a statement.
McDonald’s office declined to comment until it formally responds in court.
The long-serving Republican’s office has had the agreements with ICE since 2017, according to the petition. It was last renewed in June.

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