The Barnstable County Sheriff's Office will soon begin enforcing federal immigration law within the jail.
Last night, the county’s Assembly of Delegates voted in support of Sheriff James Cummings’s recent move to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. It will allow local law enforcement to assist with detaining county inmates suspected of illegal immigration.
While saying that he believed many immigrants are hardworking and honest, Cummings told the Assembly, "a lot of the people who come into this country are in here for bad reasons. We have some people coming into the country now that are just here to commit crimes, they're here to further their drug cartels."
Cummings left the hearing before the public comment period on a resolution put forward by Delegate Brian O’Malley of Provincetown. It argued that local officers deputized as ICE agents will enable racial profiling and intimidation of seasonal visa workers.
Delegates heard from 23 members of the public, all but three of whom opposed the Sheriff Office’s partnership with ICE.
"Here is one more tool to steer immigrants into deportation," Rod MacDonald, a Brewster-based minister, said on behalf of the Cape Cod Coalition for Safe Communities.
Adam Lange, also of Brewster, was there to support Cummings.
"We as a nation need to know who is coming into our country to maintain public safety," Lange told the Assembly during public comment. "Not all individuals come to make a better life for themselves.”
Just five of the county’s 15 delegates voted to support Cummings. Those votes are weighted by town population, representing 57 percent of the Cape. The resolution opposing the ICE partnership failed to pass.
The vote was symbolic, since the Sheriff's Office does not report to the Assembly of Delegates.
Brenda Haywood, a pastor from Provincetown, was among the speakers opposed to the partnership, fearing it will target immigrants.
"I feel this sheriff has just made it open season," Haywood told WCAI after the meeting.
Immigration advocates say they hope the Safe Communities Act, pending in the Legislature, would nullify the local-federal agreements statewide.