A four-day sting operation targeting undocumented immigrants throughout Massachusetts has led to the arrests of 19 individuals who have been either convicted or charged with fentanyl, heroin or other drug-related trafficking crimes, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or “ICE”) said Wednesday.
ICE said that those arrested had been released by local law enforcement in the state without notifying the federal agency.
The arrested individuals are from seven different countries: one from the Bahamas, four from Brazil, four from Cape Verde, six from Dominican Republic, one from France, one from Guatemala, and two from Haiti.
ICE vs. Law Enforcement
The operation represents the latest evidence of the tension that exists under President Donald Trump between local and federal law enforcement. As the Trump administration continues to take a hardline stance against on immigration, many liberal communities have combated those tough federal policies by serving as so-called “sanctuary cities,” where laws are intended to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
In its announcement of the Massachusetts raid, ICE lambasted sanctuary policies, saying that local law enforcement in the state disregarded “detainers” on the individuals who were released. ICE places a detainer on an individual who has been arrested on criminal charges when the agency has probable cause to believe they are “removable aliens” (ICE’s term, not ours), which is intended to serve as a signal to local police to notify ICE in advance of the individual’s release.
The agency also warned local jurisdictions that don’t cooperate that they “are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations.”
“When law enforcement agencies don’t honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat,” the agency said.
In the case of a Cape Verde national who was arrested in Brockton, Mass. on Sunday, ICE said that he was released in March despite there being a detainer on file for him. According to ICE, the man had “multiple prior convictions for crack cocaine, breaking and entering (2 counts), possession of cocaine and heroin, and vandalism [of] prison property, among others.”
Another Cape Verde national arrested in Brockton the following day has convictions for possession of cocaine and oxycodone with intent to distribute and convictions for firearms, according to the agency. Most of the arrested individuals are currently in ICE custody, while at least one is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.