Acton’s Immigration Policy After Nearly Two Years: Part 1, A Re-Introduction


There have been many immigration policies enacted at the local and state level across the Country, but all are specific to their own conditions. Many have been challenged in court and when an illegal immigrant commits a serious crime, one of the first questions raised on behalf of the victim is about the details of the local immigration policy.

On October 30, 2017 the Acton Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted on our official Immigration Policy. Prior to the vote, the BOS consulted with the Acton Police Department. At the time, the idea was not uniformly embraced by the Citizens of Acton and there were many comments and concerns to counter the positive sentiment expressed during the review process. The citizens of Acton should be informed of our policy and kept updated on how the policy may directly or indirectly effect public safety. I set out to find answers to three questions: What specifically does the policy propose to accomplish? How will these accomplishments be achieved? Has there been any positive or negative effects from the policy?

The Policy has five points and can be reviewed at the following link.

ImmigrationPolicy 1. Under 8 U.S.C. §1373 and §1644, federal law prohibits town officials from imposing limits on maintaining, exchanging, sending, or receiving information regarding citizenship and immigration status with any federal, state, or local government entity.
2. No Town bylaw, policy, procedure or regulation is intended to violate those federal laws or the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
3. No employee of the Town shall inquire about or collect any information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual unless the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the Bylaws of the Town of Acton require municipal employees to do so.
4. No employee of the Town shall detain a person based on the belief that the person is not present legally in the United States or that the person has committed an immigration violation.
5. No employee of the Town shall perform the functions of an immigration officer, nor shall the Town use Town funds, resources, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to assist in the enforcement of federal civil immigration laws. Notwithstanding the prior sentence, nothing in this policy shall prevent an officer, employee or department of the Town from lawfully discharging duties in compliance with and in response to a lawfully issued judicial warrant, judicial subpoena, or judicial detainer.

The first two points of the Policy protect the police from violating any federal laws related to immigration or data sharing so the police can continue to provide information to Federal authorities. The third point prohibits any employee of the Town from inquiring about immigration status. The fourth item prohibits an employee of the Town from detaining anyone based on their immigration status. Both #3 and #4 are odd because I do not recall any issues with police or any other “employees of the Town” actively searching for illegal immigrant enclaves in Acton. I think if this were at all being considered, we would have heard about it.

The fifth point contradicts itself because it claims,
“…no employee of the Town shall perform the functions of an immigration officer or use Town funds, resources, facilities, property, equipment or personnel in the enforcement of federal civil immigration laws.”
However, in the next sentence, the police are protected again from any legal issues. The first four words negate the effectiveness of the main point above, and possibly the entire document.
“Notwithstanding the prior sentence, nothing in this policy shall prevent an officer … from lawfully discharging duties in compliance with and in response to a lawfully issued judicial warrant, judicial subpoena, or judicial detainer.”

The Policy does not appear to have any regulatory teeth, thus is great example of “virtue-signaling”: publicly expressing opinions intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue. I expect passing this policy made some people feel very good about themselves for a short time and they really believed they were making a difference. However, it seems likely that this policy is more symbolic than effective. Is this what we want our leaders to be spending their time and our tax dollars on? Moreover, this type of symbolism has the potential to lead to real public safety issues.

In the next installment of this story, Acton Forum will analyze data from official police records related to encounters with lawbreakers possessing no identification, foreign licenses, or foreign passports and provide more details from our correspondence with the Acton Police.

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