Cape Cod Assembly Rejects Anti-Immigration-Enforcement Resolution

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The Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates has voted down a resolution opposing the Cape Cod sheriff’s agreement with the federal government to help enforce immigration law at the county jail.

The resolution was a protest only, since the assembly has no authority over the sheriff. But some supporters thought it might help a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature designed to prevent local and regional law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal immigration laws.

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings, a Republican, made an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year to send deputy sheriffs to be trained to identify illegal aliens who are arrested and brought to the county jail in Bourne, notify ICE, and detain them if ICE requests it. The deputy sheriffs will in effect be deputized by the federal government to enforce immigration law in the jail, but not outside the jail, Cummings said.

A hearing on the resolution Wednesday afternoon in Barnstable Village drew 23 speakers during public comment and lasted about two hours 15 minutes.

Nine of the 15 delegates voted yes, five voted no, and one was absent. But under the assembly’s proportionate-representation system based on each delegate’s town’s population, the resolution failed, with only 40.54 percent for it, 57.16 percent against it, and 2.30 percent absent.

Cummings, who made a presentation before the assembly and answered questions from delegates, emphasized that law enforcement officers will not be going out looking for illegal immigrants on Cape Cod, but his deputy sheriffs will enforce federal law at the jail.

“I think the easy message is don’t commit a crime while you’re here and you have nothing to worry about,” Cummings said.

Opponents of the program expressed concerns about racial profiling, negative effects on trust between immigrants and police in communities, and a chilling effect on needed seasonal workers from other countries.

They also assailed the fairness of the program, which comes from Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

“The 287(g) program dates from the days of the Red Scare, McCarthyism in the United States,” said Brian O’Malley, who represents Provincetown in the assembly.

He raised the specter of racial profiling.

“Who is stopped? Who is detained? Whose immigration status is investigated? Is it color? Is it ethnic or religious appearance? Is it mastery of the English language?” O’Malley asked.

Twenty of the 23 people who spoke during public comment supported the resolution opposing Cummings’s agreement with ICE. Several of them identified themselves as members of the Cape Cod Coalition for Safe Communities, which opposes the sheriff’s agreement with the federal government.

Rod MacDonald, a Presbyterian minister from Brewster, said the 287(g) program will lead to “increased crime against immigrants,” who he said already suffer from “no shortage of fear.”

“What they will understand is … here is one more tool to steer immigrants into deportation,” said MacDonald, a member of the coalition.

Richard Vengroff, a Mashpee resident and retired political science professor, said he has studied the Section 287(g) program, and found that the Trump Administration has altered it. Its original purpose, he said, was to identify, detain, and deport immigrants convicted of serious crimes or posing a threat to public safety.

“In fact its purpose has, under this current administration, been dramatically changed, and grossly distorted by the iterations they’ve put in place for 287(g). A large number of immigrants with no criminal record, some with only traffic tickets, have been deported,” Vangroff said. “It allows for individuals to be held in a very un-American way, without charge, in a county jail.”

Some noted that it’s possible to be arrested on a bench warrant or for not paying child support, and that if that happens to an illegal alien that person may be subject to deportation.

“I will support the resolution because I’m concerned about the degradation of due process,” said Mary Chaffee, a delegate who represents Brewster in the assembly.

But Cummings noted that one ICE standard for deportation of an illegal immigrant is being sentenced to at least one year in jail after conviction of a crime, and he suggested it’s unlikely that someone who hasn’t committed a serious crime will be flagged by ICE.

And supporters of Cummings noted that everyone in the country illegally is breaking the law.

Adam Lange, of Brewster, who said he lost a relative to opioid addiction, cited statistics showing disproportionately high numbers of illegal immigrants in federal prison on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

“With this being known, government officials who put their ideology above the law lose all credibility with moderate voters such as myself,” Lange said. “… I applaud our sheriff’s efforts to restore the rule of law on Cape Cod.”

Linda Zuern, a delegate who represents Bourne in the assembly, said enforcing immigration laws is vital to maintaining the national character, as opposed to the looser enforcement in previous years.

“I think what’s happened in the last year is people have been fed up with that kind of loose government. Once we don’t have borders, we no longer have a sovereign country,” Zuern said.

Cummings rebutted the trust argument by arguing there’s no evidence fear of deportation has hindered the pursuit of justice on Cape Cod.

“Last week I asked the police chiefs of our three largest towns, Barnstable, Falmouth, and Yarmouth, along with the district attorney’s office, if they had ever had an incidence in Barnstable County where a case could not go forward because a member of the immigrant community was afraid to speak to the police. And they all answered no,” Cummings said.

Some opponents of the program questioned whether it’s legal, since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled last year that local authorities had no right to hold an illegal immigrant from Cambodia, Sreynoun Lunn, solely on a federal immigration detainer. Lunn had been arrested and charged with unarmed robbery, but was due to be released after prosecutors decided not to go forward with the case. Local authorities wanted to hold Lunn because federal immigration authorities were interested in deporting him, by the state’s highest court said no.

Cummings didn’t address the Commonwealth v. Lunn decision directly, but he provided an update.

“And by the way Mr. Lunn, who this decision was based on, was recently re-arrested in [Boston] for armed robbery and assault and battery. He stole two thousand dollars from a woman in a wheelchair,” Cummings said. “This is exactly the type of crime I’m trying to prevent from happening here in Barnstable County.”

The resolution lost because most of the delegates from towns with large populations opposed it. Patrick Princi, the Barnstable delegate, whose vote counts for more than 20 percent in the proportional-representation system, voted no, saying that the assembly’s proper purview includes county budgets and county departments the assembly oversees.

“It’s not meant for political-type propaganda pieces through these types of resolutions that come before us on matters that are federal matters, that are matters that the state should be addressing,” Princi said.

Here is a breakdown of the vote Wednesday afternoon:


Voting Yes:
[supporting the resolution opposing the sheriff’s agreement with ICE]

Susan Moran, Falmouth (14.61 percent)
John Ohman, Dennis (6.58 percent)
Edward McManus, Harwich (5.67 percent)
Mary Chaffee, Brewster (4.55 percent)
Ronald Bergstrom, Chatham (2.84 percent)
Christopher Kanaga, Orleans (2.73 percent)
Brian O’Malley, Provincetown (1.36 percent)
Lilli-Ann Green, Wellfleet (1.27 percent)
Deborah McCutcheon, Truro (0.93 percent)


Voting No:
[against the resolution opposing the sheriff’s agreement with ICE]

Patrick Princi, Barnstable (20.92 percent)
Suzanne McAuliffe, Yarmouth (11.02 percent)
James Killion, Sandwich (9.58 percent)
Linda Zuern, Bourne (9.15 percent)
Thomas O’Hara, Mashpee (6.49 percent)



Edward Atwood, Eastham (2.30 percent)