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Cambridge, MA police will no longer arrest illegal immigrants driving without licenses

Cambridge Police Department interceptor (Jason Lawrence, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
February 21, 2020

The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts passed a new ordinance on Monday telling its police officers to avoid arresting illegal immigrants driving without a license in the city.

The new law, titled the “Welcoming Community Ordinance” passed with unanimous support from the Cambridge City Council. It will update the Cambridge Municipal Code to encourage its police to avoid actions that would create a record accessible to federal immigration agents. Officers are advised to let unlicensed drivers go with a court summons so that no arrest report will find its way to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detection, The Hill reported.

Cambridge has declared itself a “sanctuary city” since 2017. The city has reportedly held the same policing guidelines as an informal practice in the past but the city’s policymakers decided to make the guidelines an official policy.

The stated purpose of the new ordinance is “to establish the City of Cambridge as a Welcoming City, to declare that all are welcome here, and to increase public confidence in the City of Cambridge’s government by establishing standards associated with the City’s voluntary involvement in federal immigration enforcement.”

The ordinance does not allow the city’s officers to ignore the law entirely. In a joint statement by Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, City Manager Louis A. Depasquale and Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr., the city’s leaders noted Mass. drivers are required to be insured and failure to comply with the state’s laws will result in “additional consequences.”

However, the ordinance does state that officers “shall, whenever possible and if there are no other violations causing the person to be arrested, issue a summons to court instead of taking the person into custody.”

City Councilor Quinton Zondervan said the ordinance is established “to protect our community members from a federal government that’s out of control.”

Zondervan directed his comments about federal immigration enforcement towards President Donald Trump’s administration and said he hopes the ordinance will keep the city’s illegal immigrants “out of the clutches of the Trump administration.”

The policies also advise officers not to inquire about a person’s immigration status and requires those officers to notify a person if ICE has issued a detainer or administrative warrant for that person’s arrest.

Police are advised to comply with the policy and the ordinance notes “allegations of violations of the present policy may be filed with the Mayor’s Office in the case of a complaint against an officer or employee of the Cambridge Police Department, the Department’s Internal Affairs office, who shall investigate the complaint and take appropriate disciplinary action.”

The city passed the new ordinance while citing concerns about ICE agents increasingly waiting outside courthouses to arrest illegal immigrants.