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Contact NIJC Communications Director Tara Tidwell Cullen at (312) 833-2967 or by email.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court hears oral arguments today in a case that could result in another legal blow to U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s (ICE) use of immigration detainers.

The central question in the case, Lunn v. Commonwealth, is whether Massachusetts law enforcement agents have the authority under the commonwealth’s statutes and constitution to arrest individuals based on immigration detainers. A ruling in favor of the plaintiff could have broad implications regarding the legality of detainers beyond the commonwealth.

“The ICE detainer program damages communities and is built on a foundation of illegality,” said Mark Fleming, national litigation coordinator at Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center. “We are optimistic that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision will be consistent with other court rulings in recognizing the statutory and constitutional problems with detainers. Eventually, immigration detainers will be an illegal tactic of the past.”

Immigration detainers are written requests by ICE asking local police to detain individuals beyond the time when they otherwise should be released until ICE can take the individuals into custody. Detainers have played a key role ICE’s harsh interior enforcement policies. Through detainers, ICE has relied on local law enforcement agencies to make arrests beyond their authority under state laws in order to assist in the detention of more than one million immigrants. This collaboration between local police and immigration enforcement undermines community safety because immigrant communities often fear that reporting a crime will lead to deportation. Courts in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oregon, and Florida have previously ruled that immigration detainers are unlawful.

NIJC is co-counsel on the case with the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

Watch the live stream of the argument beginning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern here: