The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says it is not deterred.
A day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his intention to pull federal funding from“sanctuary cities” for not complying with federal immigration efforts, the ACLU fired back.
Laura Rotolo, an ACLU staff lawyer focusing on immigration, called his statements “yet another attempt to bully local police departments into becoming part of Trump’s force.”
In a conference call on Tuesday,Rotolo urged Massachusetts cities and towns to “hold strong” against the Trump administration’s attempts to punish sanctuary cities for refusing to cooperate with immigration agents.
The ACLU, which has gone to court to fight President Donald Trump's travel ban, warned the administration that punishing sanctuary cities was illegal and would be challenged.
“Coercing cities and towns to do the work of the federal government is simply unconstitutional and faces strong legal challenges,” Rotolo said. She added that "allowing federal governments to coerce local police into becoming, essentially, deportation agents, break down community trust and makes us all unsafe.”
On Monday, Session urged "our nation’s states and cities to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies.” During a visit to the White House,Sessions saidthat sanctuary cities compromise safety and put those cities "at risk of losing valuable federal dollars.”
The ACLU has previously spoken out about the Trump administration's efforts to, as it says, “coerce” state and local police into providing information about or temporarily detaining undocumented immigrants until the Immigration and Customs Enforcement can deport that person.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has also been outspoken about his city's position as a sanctuary city, and reiterated that in a statement Monday night following Sessions’s comments.
"The safety and well-being of our residents is, and will continue to be, my top priority as mayor of Boston,” he said. “The threat of cutting federal funding from cities across the country that aim to foster trusting relationships between their law enforcement and the immigrant community is irresponsible and destructive."
Matt Segal, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said that local police don’t have the power to take custody of someone just because federal authorities told them to.
That’s because ICE detainer requests are signed by an immigration agent. In order to detain someone, local police need an arrest warrant, an order signed by a judge.
“It is illegal for state and local officers in Massachusetts to abide by these requests, to take custody of noncitizens, because it’s a warrantless arrest,” Segal said. “That’s a power that Massachusetts state and local officers just don't have.”
The ACLU also urged state legislators to pass the Safe Communities Act, a bill now in the Massachusetts House and Senate. It would prohibit local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, or with having to provide information on religion or ethnicity to a federal registry.
“It’s important to send a strong message,” Rotolo said, “that immigrants are welcome here and that Massachusetts is not in the business of helping to deport people.’