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Massachusetts Challenges Federal Government Over Detention of Immigrant

Questioning government attorneys over the legality of holding an undocumented immigrant indefinitely for U.S. immigration authorities to deport, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court notes how a case it is taking up sets a huge precedent for U.S. immigration policy.

Justice Geraldine Hines was particularly decisive in her move to curb the federal government’s recent emphasis on deporting what it calls “criminal aliens.”

“We have the right to look at the whole. If this issue is capable of repetitive and expanding review, we’re entitled to look at that. Whether Mr. Lunn is a criminal alien or whatever, that’s kind of beside the point,” she said.

The case involves Sreynoun Lunn, a Cambodian national who entered the country as a refugee in 1985, and ordered deported by a judge in 2008 after a string of criminal convictions. However, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had no choice but to release him after the Cambodian government refused to provide travel documents.

This, however, did not last for long, as ICE officials learned that Lunn was arrested in Boston for unarmed robbery, but later released for lack of prosecution.

As Lunn was waiting in his holding cell just hours after the hearing, ICE officials picked him up and placed him under custody. It was later revealed that ICE had also issued an immigration detainer request on the same day Lunn was arrested.

Although Lunn’s arrest by ICE makes his case moot, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court still took up his emergency petition for relief on the premise that “the case raises important, recurring, time-sensitive issues that will likely evade the full court’s review in future cases.”

Lunn’s attorney Emma Whinger argued that the detention of her client by the state was against the Massachusetts Constitution, noting that, “Article 14 requires that all deprivations of liberty rests in the hand of the judiciary and the judiciary does not have its hands on immigration detainers.”

“There’s no judicial oversight of the arrest itself,” she said.

But Joshua Press, the attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, said that Lunn’s arrest and subsequent detention was done through the typical cooperation of two law enforcement agencies, adding that local authorities can hold individuals unless prohibited by law.

The arrest comes amid heightened tensions over U.S. immigration policy in a Trump presidency. Throughout the campaign trail, Trump has made a tough immigration stance as the centerpiece of his administration.

Among other things, he has promised to construct a 2000-mile wall along the Mexican border, deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrations across the country, and cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities—those that refuse to cooperate with ICE in detaining undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

In Texas, Austin is one such city refusing to heed the government’s warnings, much to the frustration of Gov. Greg Abbott. If you, or a loved one, need legal counsel on this matter, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm.

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