PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts jail is ending an agreement that deputizes some of its staff to act as immigration agents.
Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald said Friday in an interview on WATD-FM that his office has notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that it is terminating a program that dates to the early 1990s.
But he said the jail will still continue to house immigration detainees, despite calls from immigrant rights advocates to also end that arrangement.
The jail is the lone remaining facility housing ICE detainees in the state, with some 77 in custody as of late last month, according to federal data.
McDonald cited staff shortages as the primary driver for ending the program.
“Right now we just don't have the staffing or wherewithal to keep it going,” he said. “We really can't afford to send anyone away for training.”
A spokesperson for ICE's Boston office didn't respond to an email seeking comment.
Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston group, said the sheriff's decision comes after a state judge ruled in July that a lawsuit it filed challenging the sheriff’s authority to enter into the agreement could proceed.
Laura Rotolo, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said opponents have long argued that the agreements waste state taxpayer dollars by needlessly entangling local agencies with federal immigration enforcement.
Massachusetts is the only state in New England where the contracts are in place; Barnstable County and the state Department of Corrections are the remaining entities with the agreements.
In May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cut ties with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, including ending its similar contract and another arrangement to house immigration detainees, citing complaints of inhumane conditions at its jail in North Dartmouth.