Gov. Baker rolls back immigration restrictions on State Police

In this file photo, State Police are shown on duty last summer during President Obama's vacation.

Massachusetts State Police will now be able to hold certain people on immigration detainers under a Baker administration policy that rolls back prior restrictions on state law enforcement, Andy Metzger of the State House News Service reported.

Governor Charlie Baker’s new policy does not allow State Police to stop or arrest people “solely on the basis of their immigration status,” and continues to prohibit State Police inquiries into an individual’s immigration status for the “sole purpose” of helping federal officials detain or deport the person.

State Police are allowed to inquire into a person’s immigration status if it relates to another investigation, excluding investigations into violations of immigration law, according to the old and new policies.

“This policy revision gives the professionals of our statewide policing agency the tools necessary to detain criminals, gang members, or suspected terrorists wanted by federal authorities,” Gov. Baker said in a statement. “As before, the State Police will not be enforcing immigration law, nor will they inquire about immigration status; they will now be able to assist in detaining for our federal partners individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety or national security.”

The Baker administration policy keys off a new Obama administration initiative called Priority Enforcement Program, the successor to the controversial Secure Communities program.

The new federal program allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ask state and local law enforcement to detain “removable aliens” if they are suspected of terrorism or espionage, or have been convicted of gang-related crimes, felonies or a “significant misdemeanor,” such as domestic violence or drug distribution. Federal immigration officials can also request the local detention of an individual convicted of three or more misdemeanors stemming from three separate incidents, not including minor traffic infractions.

The prior State Police policy was put in place Aug. 26, 2014, during the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick, a two-term Democrat who defeated Baker in 2010. Priority Enforcement replaced Secure Communities last July.