Court: Police can't detain immigrants without charges

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts police officers do not have the authority to arrest someone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally if that person is not facing criminal charges, the state's highest court ruled July 24.

The Supreme Judicial Court opinion applied specifically to officers who provide security in state courthouses, but the ruling also suggested that no Massachusetts police officer has the legal standing to comply with such federal requests. One of the state's police associations said the ruling applied to all state law-enforcement officials.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that remaining in the U.S. when subject to deportation is a civil infraction, not a criminal one. In its unanimous decision July 24, the Supreme Judicial Court pointed out there is no state law that provides "authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a federal civil immigration detainer beyond the time that individual would otherwise be entitled to a release from state custody.""Conspicuously absent from our common law is any authority (in the absence of a statute) for police officers to arrest generally for civil matters, let alone authority to arrest specifically for federal civil immigration matters," the court wrote.

The decision is a major setback to the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration enforcement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said.

The Massachusetts court urged the state Legislature to address the matter.