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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted Friday, December 17, 2010  

Mass. to check immigration status of arrestees                                        

By Maria Sacchetti,
Globe Staff
Massachusetts State Police and other law enforcement agencies will join a controversial program intended to help federal authorities detect illegal immigrants, a top state public safety official said today. Related Survey: Do you agree with the program?
videoThose arrested
Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan said Massachusetts will sign an agreement to formally join Secure Communities, a federal program that screens all people who are arrested and fingerprinted to determine who is an illegal immigrant. Those here illegally will be reported to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will decide whether to detain and deport them.

State officials said they agreed to sign up because the Obama administration has demanded that the system expand nationwide by 2013. Boston, which already runs the program, was a pilot for the system. However, state officials complained that the US government has sent them mixed signals on the system.

The move marks a shift for the Patrick administration, which had adamantly opposed having the State Police help enforce immigration law. In one of his first acts as governor, Patrick overturned former Governor Mitt Romney's pact with the federal government to deputize some state troopers to enforce immigration law.

“Over the last year we have received conflicting information from ICE relative to the program. It has become clear now that this program is going to be mandatory for all communities in the near future,” Heffernan said today in a statement. “With that knowledge we will sign the (memorandum of understanding) with ICE. We will also work closely with all communities to monitor the implementation and share with federal officials any concerns that are raised.”

Attorney General Martha Coakley said she supported the governor's decision to join the program.

"It is a positive step for public safety to ensure that we are properly identifying people who already have been arrested and sharing that information with federal authorities for appropriate action," she said.
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