Western Mass Immigrant Rights Activists Burn Baker On ICE Bill

Local immigrant rights groups aren’t happy with Gov. Charlie Baker and his proposed legislation that would mandate state and local law enforcement to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests.

A group of more than 50 people affiliated with Western Massachusetts immigrants rights groups  protested outside the state office in Springfield calling on Baker to withdraw his bill. Some of leading groups affiliated with the protest included the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, Black Lives Matter 413, and Arise for Social Justice.

Charlie King of Shelburne Falls (left), Randy Kehler of Colrain (center), and Candace Cassin of Shelburne Falls were among some of the more than 50 protesters outside the state office building in Springfield on Aug. 8 calling for Gov. Charlie Baker to withdraw a bill that many consider harmful to immigrant communities. Photo by Chris Goudreau

Diana Sierra, a lead organizer of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, said at the event that the bill would create a climate of racism and make it harder for immigrants to report wage theft, abuse, and domestic violence because they will be afraid of being detained and deported after coming forward.

“Baker — you have aligned yourself with the most racist and xenophobic policies and we will not stand for it,” she said. “You’re a Republican who uses the discourse of family values. You don’t give a shit about immigrant families, about the right of U.S. citizens to be with their mothers and their fathers.”

The bill would allow state and local law enforcement to detain individuals upon ICE’s request who are suspected of terrorism or pose a threat to national security; convicted of an offense related to being part of a criminal street gang, has been convicted of a felony or aggravated felony; or has been convicted of a crime such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, or human trafficking, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office.

Randy Kehler of Colrain, said he decided to come to the protest against Gov. Baker’s bill because he believes denying undocumented people basic human rights such as due process over legal technicalities is unjust and inhumane.

“I find this surprising,” Kehler said. “I really felt that [Baker] had a better position on this; a much more humane position.”

Brendan Moss, deputy communications for Gov. Baker’s Office, offered a statement in response to a request for comment about the Springfield protest, which reads, “The administration was pleased to propose legislation to allow the state police to honor specific detainers for violent and dangerous criminals, convicted of crimes like murder and rape, and provide local officials with the flexibility they need to set policies appropriate to keep their communities safe.”

However, those involved with immigrants rights groups think the bill would harm immigrant community’s and the bill is aligned with anti-immigration policies of President Donald Trump.

Sierra said the bill goes against constitutional rights — police officers could detain undocumented immigrants without a warrant and due process.

“He wants to detain them for 12 hours to give ICE the opportunity to come and detain them and deport them,” she said.

The bill reads that any police officer may, upon written request from ICE, detain an undocumented person who is a threat to public safety or if there is an administrative warrant for their arrest or deportation.
“In no circumstances shall such detention exceed 12 hours unless an appropriate judicial officer shall have made a probable cause determination under the procedure set forth,” the bill reads.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com.

Author: Chris Goudreau

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