Barnstable County, Massachusetts Votes Down Opposition to 287(g)
Legislative Update by Shari Rendall | January 11, 2018
On January 3rd, the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates rejected a resolution opposing Barnstable County Sheriff’s participation in the federal 287(g) program.
Named after the relevant section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the 287(g) program allows state and local law enforcement agencies to contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help enforce federal immigration law. This allows them to access federal databases and screen those they arrest to determine if they’re in the country illegally and either already wanted by ICE or should be brought to ICE’s attention. It acts as a force multiplier and is one of the best examples of how local and federal law enforcement can cooperate to protect the public.
Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings applied for the 287(g) program early last year and was approved by ICE on December 20, confirming that Barnstable County will be the third county sheriff’s office in the Commonwealth to participate, after Bristol and Plymouth Counties. This is particularly noteworthy because Massachusetts is a sanctuary state: thanks to the state supreme court’s ruling in the Lunn case back in July, state and local law enforcement are forbidden from holding illegal aliens on detainers awaiting handover to ICE.
Even before its approval on December 20, however, Cummings’ 287(g) application met with aggressive opposition from some within the Assembly of Delegates, Barnstable County’s 15-member legislature. At the Assembly’s December 6 meeting, Delegate Brian O’Malley of Provincetown presented a resolution expressing opposition to the sheriff’s office participating in 287(g). The resolution recognized that it was largely symbolic since the Assembly has no authority over the sheriff, but O’Malley brought a large crowd of open-borders supporters to the meeting who appear to have treated the vote as a proxy for supporting the Safe Communities Act, a sanctuary-state bill still pending in the state legislature. That bill would both enshrine the state supreme court’s detainer decision in statute and prohibit local law enforcement agencies from entering into 287(g) agreements with ICE. The meeting rapidly descended into chaos, being adjourned early by Speaker Suzanne McAuliffe for what she described as O’Malley having “hijacked” the proceedings.
O’Malley’s resolution wasn’t put to vote on December 6 so it remained on the agenda for the Assembly’s next meeting, on January 3rd. In the meantime, not only was Cummings approved by ICE for the program, but opposition to the resolution grew and solidified thanks to the hard work and leadership of local activists. At the January meeting, three speakers supported the sheriff and 287(g), while none had in December.
In the Assembly’s weighted voting system, where each of the delegates’ votes is weighted differently, based on their town’s share of the county’s population, the resolution was ultimately voted down by 57.16 percent to 40.54 percent, with one delegate absent.
The fight against sanctuary policies in Massachusetts is uphill and far from over, but in Barnstable County, public safety scored a real victory against the supporters of criminal aliens.