Massachusetts' Highest Court: State Can't Arrest Immigrants on Behalf of Feds

by | July 25, 2017

By Michelle Williams

It is illegal for offices to hold people based solely on their immigration status, the highest court in Massachusetts said in a ruling released Monday.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was asked to consider if court officers have the authority to arrest an individual at the request of federal immigration officials.

"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 the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from state custody," states the ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The ruling was part of an appeal on behalf of Sreynuon Lunn, a man brought to the U.S. as an infant by Cambodian parents fleeing the Khmer Rouge.

Now in his 30s, Lunn was arrested in Boston last October on a charge of unarmed robbery.

The day before his arraignment, homeland security officers issued a civil immigration detainer against him, requesting he be held in custody. Bail was set at $1,500 and Lunn was committed to the custody of Suffolk County Sheriff's Office in lieu of bail.

Four months later, the criminal charge was dismissed by a Suffolk Superior Court judge citing a lack of prosecution.

After the charge was dismissed, he was held by court officers at Boston Municipal Court at the request of a Federal immigration officer then taken into federal custody.

Immigrants in the United States without proper documentation are subject to deportation for numerous reasons, including but not limited to: if they commit a crime, if they represent a security or foreign policy threat and if they illegally vote.

As the charge was dropped, there was no criminal reason to hold Lunn for federal immigration officials, according to the court.

Lunn's case was remanded to Suffolk County Court for dismissal.

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