The defeat of anti-immigrant Republican gubernatorial nominee Geoff Diehl and the GOP-led measure seeking to repeal state law opening driver’s licenses to eligible residents regardless of legal status weren’t the only pro-immigrant victories in Massachusetts this week.
Voters in Barnstable County elected Democrat Donna Buckley as their next sheriff. Buckley, who is also the first woman to be elected sheriff in Barnstable County, defeated Republican state lawmaker Timothy Whelan, a former police sergeant. But how is this victory pro-immigrant, you ask? Well, Barnstable County is the final locality in the commonwealth to still hold a 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These racist agreements allow local law enforcement to cosplay as mass deportation agents.
Buckley unapologetically campaigned on ending this agreement if she won. Following her victory this week, she called its termination “priority number one,” Cape Cod Times reported.
RELATED STORY: 'Barnstable’s 287(g) should be discontinued': Massachusetts residents sue over flawed ICE policy
The department’s 287(g) agreement had already been under deep scrutiny when a group of commonwealth taxpayers this past February sued to invalidate the agreement. They challenged whether the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office had the authority to enter into a 287(g) agreement with ICE in the first place. A similar lawsuit helped lead to Plymouth County voluntarily ending its 287(g) agreement last year.
“Under Massachusetts law, the powers of sheriffs are very tightly circumscribed,” Lawyers for Civil Rights Litigation Director Oren Sellstrom previously said. “The state legislature has wisely refused to authorize Massachusetts sheriffs to enter into agreements with the federal government for immigration enforcement, in light of the many serious problems caused by this entanglement. Without that authority, the agreement and Sheriff Cummings’ ongoing expenditures under it are unlawful.”
In a Q&A with The Enterprise earlier this month, Buckley said that helping enforce federal immigration law “is not the role of the Barnstable County sheriff,” and said the agreement “does not make Barnstable County safer.”
“No other sheriff’s office in New England has such an agreement with ICE,” Buckley continued. “In Plymouth, the sheriff ended the agreement and acknowledged they did not have the resources or staff to both fulfill this agreement and perform their core mission. They chose the core mission because that makes us all safer. As sheriff, I will always work toward the core mission of the office, to provide correction, treatment, and rehabilitation to inmates so when they are released, they can be productive members of society and Barnstable County will be safer. The 287(g) agreement does not add those to goals.”
Sheriffs in other areas of the nation have also campaigned and won on ending these agreements, and advocates and progressive lawmakers alike have urged an end to the program entirely. But while ICE pledged a review of the program more than a year ago, lawmakers have said there’d been no visible progress on that review. The 287(g) program should be terminated. The Justice Department has previously said it resulted in racial profiling and has only encouraged terrible sheriffs to be even worse.
Buckley’s term is set to begin in January. "My term of office is going to start by making sure the priorities at the sheriff’s office reflect the core mission of correction, rehabilitation, and treatment," she said in remarks reported by Cape Cod Times.
As reported earlier this week, noted white supremacist Stephen Miller and his associates pumped tens of millions of dollars into ads across more than a dozen states, including Massachusetts, that sought to fearmonger on immigration and crime, as well as spread transphobic tropes. While votes are still being counted, and certainly some unpleasant Republicans have won their races, it’s accurate to say that the $40 million effort was a flop. Pro-immigrant measures and candidates all across the country have won, or are leading.
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