Supreme Judicial Court To Rule On ICE Detainers

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BOSTON — A case likely to test the relationship between the state and federal immigration authorities is headed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

As first reported by the Boston Herald’s Bob McGovern, next month the SJC will determine whether Massachusetts can keep individuals issued Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers in its custody — even after criminal charges are dismissed.

Court documents obtained by New Boston Post show that the larceny case involving Sreynuon Lunn, however, may have been dismissed due to sloppy procedural errors. According to an affidavit filed by Lunn’s public defender, his case was scheduled to go to trial on January 17 — but “the Commonwealth was unable to initially find its file.”

“Once the file was found, it was reported that the alleged victim had not been summonsed for the court date and the Commonwealth was reporting not ready,” wrote Lunn’s attorney, Alyssa Hackett, who added that the case was continued to February 6 despite Lunn’s objection.

Hackett wrote that once Lunn returned to court on February 6, the state dismissed his case “for want of prosecution.”

The dismissal set in motion the chain of events that has quickly elevated Lunn’s conundrum from Boston Municipal Court to the highest court in the state.

Lunn, who had a 48-hour ICE detainer request on his record, was detained after a judge ruled against Lunn’s release. Hackett acknowledged that Lunn “was aware” of the ICE detainer order ahead of his final court appearance, but claimed that Lunn “was never provided with any process to challenge the detention request or a hearing to be heard regarding its issuance.”

Hackett, in Lunn’s petition, argued that trial courts are not authorized to hold individuals for “purely civil immigration violations.”

“By announcing that the court would hold the defendant on the ICE detainer past the time when he would otherwise be released from state custody, the trial court has effectuated a new arrest based solely on a civil immigration detention request,” Hackett wrote.

Hackett also accused ICE of using a “warrantless detainer” to “circumvent its own limited warrantless arrest authority by having the Commonwealth do it for them.”

Hackett claimed that Lunn’s detention is unconstitutional as “the ICE detainer does not purport to assert a criminal violation” and Lunn never had the opportunity to challenge the detainer in court.

Lunn, however, has since been transported to a federal detention facility. Hackett argued that Lunn’s transfer following the 48-hour period “makes a traditional appeal following the resolution of a criminal case essentially useless.”

SJC Justice Barbara Lenk, who reported the case to the full court, wrote that while Lunn’s current situation — remaining in federal custody — renders the state’s initial 48-hour hold as “moot to him,” she stressed that “because the case raises important, recurring, time-sensitive issues that will likely evade the full court’s review in future cases, I anticipate that the full court will address the issues and decide the matter despite its mootness.”

Lenk added that Lunn’s case will be heard at 11 a.m. on March 15.