Massachusetts court officers cannot hold a suspected illegal immigrant in custody at the request of federal immigration agents if there is no criminal warrant or criminal detainer, the state’s highest court today found today in a blockbuster ruling sure to send shockwaves through the Bay State’s immigration enforcement system.
“Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer beyond the time that individual would otherwise be entitled to a release from State custody,” the unanimous Supreme Judicial Court ruling states.
The case was brought to the SJC by a Cambodian national named Sreynuon Lunn who was in custody on a case out of Boston Municipal Court. Unable to post a $1,500 bail, Lunn was held until his trial date, Feb. 6 of this year, at which time the charges were dismissed when Suffolk prosecutors could not move forward with a trial.
However, Judge Michael Coyne refused to release Lunn due to a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to court documents. Lunn was moved to federal immigration custody, and his lawyer appealed to the state’s high court to determine whether Massachusetts law allows a state court officer to keep someone in custody if there are no pending criminal charges.
“It is undisputed in this case that holding someone in circumstances like this, against his or her will, constitutes an arrest under Massachusetts law,” the ruling states. “There is no Federal statute that confers on State officers the power to make this kind of an arrest.”
The court determined state laws do not allow for this type of an arrest either, the decision states.
“In short, this was a civil immigration detainer,” the justices wrote. “It alleged that Lunn was subject to, and was being sought by the Federal authorities for the purpose of, the civil process of removal. It was not a criminal detainer or a criminal arrest warrant. It did not allege that the Federal authorities were seeking Lunn for a criminal immigration offense or any other Federal crime, for purposes of a criminal prosecution.”
By Chris Villani for Boston Herald RADIO
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