Towards A More Just Immigration Policy

Law enforcement must improve their relationship with immigrant communities.

Since the election and inauguration of a president who campaigned for a tougher stance on immigration, we have witnessed escalating activity against undocumented immigrants. Far from being a distant issue, anti-immigrant rhetoric has inspired protest and action in and around Harvard.

Last month, the highest court in Massachusetts heard a case asking whether local law enforcement officers are authorized to detain a person solely at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Even closer to home, six Harvard students spent eight hours in jail last Monday afternoon, arrested after protesting the detention and deportation of undocumented students through a sit-in at the Suffolk County House of Corrections.

These developments are admirable, and we support the Harvard students in their effort. The broken relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities must be challenged, and we hope legislators in Massachusetts take these pro-immigrant sentiments into consideration when drafting legislation.

Even in challenging political times, our perspectives on our immigrant neighbors must remain unchanged. They are our fellow residents and community members, deserving of the same basic human rights under the law. That was our view in February when argued that the City of Cambridge was right to label itself as a sanctuary city despite punitive action by the federal government; that continues to be our view now. It is critical to prevent unlawful detention of immigrant residents, both in Cambridge and nationwide.

Actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration, however, have challenged that notion, and law-abiding immigrants now have reason to feel unsafe. In Massachusetts, detainer orders from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have been used to have local law enforcement hold an individual in custody even after criminal proceedings have been resolved should ICE wish to investigate immigration status or pursue deportation.

Though cases about the constitutionality of these orders are currently being heard in the courts, we are sympathetic to the view that the civil nature of immigration proceedings makes it illegal for law enforcement to detain someone solely on the basis of an ICE order. The Commonwealth must not abandon its necessary commitment to protecting the rights of all of its residents.

Beyond simply the legality of this specific issue, however, these actions by ICE serve to further weaken the already fraught relationship between immigrant communities and law enforcement. This benefits no one, especially when ICE seeks to arrest diligent, law-abiding mothers or fathers dropping their children off at school.

Recently, the lamp posts in Harvard Yard displayed banners reading, “Wherever you are from…you are home.” Indeed, Harvard College brings the brightest students from around the world to study on a campus marked by diversity in nationality, language, and citizenship. This has brought much in the way of discovery and productivity.

Yet for this and other communities to retain their distinctive openness, our elected officials must listen to their constituents who urge them to stand by our legal processes. Our law enforcement, at all levels, must work alongside community leaders. We call on the government to reaffirm the centrality of immigration to our nation and to not neglect its responsibility to provide human rights to all under its protection.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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