Revising previous guidelines, Massachusetts State Police are now able to detain arrested individuals who are sought by federal immigration officials, according to policy issued on Thursday.
State police say the revised regulations are designed to align with the Obama administration's Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which in July 2015 replaced the controversial Secure Communities program.
Under Massachusetts' previous policy — enacted in 2014 by then-Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, in response to concerns about Secure Communities — state police were not allowed to contact federal immigration officials without approval of a supervisor and were not allowed to ask about a person's immigration status, unless it related to an investigation of a violation of state law.
Under the revised policy, state police will be able to temporarily detain undocumented immigrants, at the request of federal immigration officials, if they're under arrest for committing a state crime.
“As before, the State Police will not be enforcing federal immigration law nor will they inquire about immigration status; they will now be able to assist in detaining for our federal partners individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety or national security,” Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said in a statement. Baker's spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton said the governor was traveling Thursday and unavailable for further comment.
The federal PEP is designed to focus its use of detainers on suspected terrorists, gang members and criminals.
The previous federal program, Secure Communities, was criticized for being overly broad in terms of who could be detained by local authorities.
The revised policy was first reported early Thursday by The Boston Herald.
Later Thursday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told the Herald that his city's police won't follow the new Baker administration policy for state police.
“I don’t view police officers as immigration officials," Walsh told the paper.
With reporting by the WBUR Newscast Unit and Benjamin Swasey