Middlesex County Sheriff

I’ve written about immigration before, notably here. And it’s important to recognize that a number of issues are often conflated when discussing immigration. So it’s always good to learn more about the realities on the ground.

Today, I went to talk from Peter Koutoujian, the Sheriff of Middlesex County (in which lies Somerville, where I live), about local and federal law enforcement coordination under sanctuary city policies. As the meeting invite, from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, reads:

As the sole Massachusetts Sherriff to sign onto this letter, and a Sherriff [sic] for whom the question of the “sanctuary city” has local relevance— with Cambridge and Somerville both designated “sanctuary cities”—Sheriff Koutoujian has first-hand knowledge and a unique viewpoint on debates related to immigration, deportation, and public confidence under the new Trump Administration.

Let’s be clear: The differences in practices pre-Trump and post-Trump are pretty small, at least at the county level. Counties in Massachusetts don’t do any patrolling; they play more of a support function for city and state law enforcement. And individuals don’t get to a county lockup until they’ve already passed through the courts, so there’s a greater likelihood of criminal behavior than those whom local law enforcement might detain. So there’s a sensibly high level of information sharing with federal law enforcement (aka ICE) with less negative impact on community policing.

The real difference come down to whether the County will respond to 48-hour “detain” notices from ICE—which Koutijian and many other sheriffs say are unlawful because they are not backed by a court order. But not all sheriffs agree, of course; we spent some time talking about how nearby Bristol County’s sheriff has been inflammatory and is making life difficult for all other sheriffs. Indeed, Bristol’s Sheriff Hodgson is allegedly being sued for participating too enthusiastically with federal programs.

All in all, it was very useful to get first-hand knowledge on the realities of the situation and I appreciated the shout-outs to Somerville’s Mayor Curtatone for his public advocacy as a Sanctuary City. Here’s his speech from January, if you haven’t seen it.

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