Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Attorney Sam’s Take: Massachusetts Joins Federal Agents Investigate Suspects’ Immigrant Status

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has now changed its mind regarding the role of state authorities in the criminal investigation of illegal aliens. For the past few years, various states have used various tactics in the tracing of illegal aliens. They claim that the discovery of said aliens helps stem the tide of various crimes, including robbery, murder and drug trafficking. Thus, the logic goes, keeping said aliens out of the country is a valid law enforcement goal in the fight to keep us all safe.’

Until now, however, Massachusetts state officials have refused to join the cause. This has now changed. The Commonwealth will now join the federal program that screens all people who are arrested and fingerprinted to determine whether they are in the country legally. Those who are illegal will then be reported to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), which will decide whether to detain and deport them.

This step is a change for Boston’s Patrick administration, which had adamantly opposed having the State Police help enforce immigration law. In fact, one of his first acts as governor was to overturn former governor Mitt Romney’s pact with the federal government to deputize some state troopers to enforce immigration law.

The reason for the change? Well, “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,” Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan has explained. “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.”

Uhm….doesn’t that sort of sound like legalspeak for “It looked like we were going to have to do it anyway, so we figured we would do it before the proverbial political gun was actually pointed between our eyes so we could claim we did it willingly”?

Anyway, in her latest opportunity to volunteer a cheerful politically correct media-suited word, Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced that 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. No mention as to those who may have not been guilty of anything when arrested. Maybe that does not happen in Prosecutionland.

Anyway, it does show that all you have to do is make a move considered “tough on crime” to make everybody happy!

A View From The Trenches:

Well, maybe not everybody.

Detractors of the move say that the program is sweeping up hard-working immigrants who are caught for minor violations, such as driving without a license. Civil liberties activists claim that the program actually makes our communities less safe. Laura Rótolo, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts says that these programs “encourage racial profiling and undermine community policing efforts because people become afraid to report crime or ask the police for help, out of fear that their information will be sent to ICE.”

Those nasty allegedly “soft on crime” rodents, aka criminal defense attorneys such as myself, also note that a new weapon has been handed to a society which has already figured out how to use the criminal justice system for the fine art of revenge. Now, an angry neighbor need only allege an undocumented neighbor did something illegal and, true or not, it is bye-bye bad neighbor!

Needless to say, it is one more weapon which this citizenry really did not need.

Further, what about a situation where a police simply suspects someone of being illegally here? What is to stop said officer from “investigating” said suspect, arresting them for some bogus charge, such as disorderly conduct, and then delivering him or her to ICE while giving them the “break” of not prosecting the disorderly claim?

Or is the “The Police Would Never Do That” statute still in force in Prosecutorland as well?

“But, Sam, let’s be clear here. We are talking about people who are here…well…illegally, right?”

Yes, and therein lies the rub and, frankly, the technical flaw, in my argument. It is illegal to be here illegally. And so, what the state is now doing is undoubtedly legal and, yes, Constitutional.

Forgive me, though, if I inject a question of ethics, morality and compassion into it. Is this the way in which we want to enforce these laws?

“Well, Sam, ICE could always see that the undocumented suspect was brought in under a false premise, right? They could then decline to deport under those circumstances!”

Yes, and they could also make me king. Both, though, are pretty unlikely.

Of course, such moral dilemas are for another forum at another time. For now, though, what does this have to do with you?

Well, if you are someone who are either here illegally or, perhaps, are hiding another secret which could lead to embarrassment or turmoil if it was discovered, then you want to avoid a situation where the finger of accusation is pointed in your direction. When said finger is leading into your personal space, there is a great risk that those secrets, legal or otherwise, will come to light.

After all, the right to secrecy tends to be the first right to disappear when you are under suspicion.

Should that event take place in Beantown, even if you happen to be innocent of the potential criminal charges, you will want an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and, perhaps, avoid discoveries which could cause the above-mentioned disaster to your life.

Should you want said attorney to be me, please feel to arrange a free initial consultation by calling me at 617-492-3000.

To view the original story in which parts of this blog were based, please go to : http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/12/mass_to_check_i.html?p1=News_links

NOTE TO READER: As the year and, hopefully, my time wearing an eye patch come to an end, I will continue blogging three times per week. However, beginning with the new year, watch for the return of this blog to daily posts, as well as a new look to Attorney Sam’s Take.

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