Like many places in America today, Massachusetts is not what it used to be. Known in political mythology as the home of the center-Left, tax-cutting Cold Warrior John F. Kennedy, the commonwealth has become increasingly fringe since the days of Camelot. The excesses of Ted Kennedy led to Mike Dukakis, which has led to the bonkers wokeism of Elizabeth Warren and Ayanna Pressley. Those Bay Staters who still cling to pragmatism must feel like orphans by now.
After the recent midterm election, the situation appears even more grim. In Cape Cod’s Barnstable County, voters replaced retiring Sheriff James Cummings with Donna Buckley, who previously worked as general counsel in the sheriff’s office. Despite her time in Cummings’ office, Buckley’s election represents a sea change in how the county protects its citizens, and that’s bad news for residents who value their safety and property.
Cummings spent nearly 50 years in law enforcement and completed four terms as county sheriff. He stood out in Massachusetts as one of only a few sheriffs in the state who participated in the 287(g) program, in which local law enforcement cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to transfer custody of criminal illegal aliens to the federal agency for arrest and deportation proceedings.
The program seemed to work well in Barnstable County, as crime rates have been below the national average. Despite Massachusetts’ status as a sanctuary state, the county’s assembly of delegates even rejected a resolution in 2018 to oppose Cummings’ participation in the program.
Perhaps because of its effectiveness, 287(g) has been in the crosshairs of the anti-borders Left for several years. The result has been a string of sheriff candidates across the country who have campaigned on a promise to rescind cooperation with ICE. Buckley was one of them.
What can residents of Barnstable County expect now that they have voted for such a dramatic shift in law enforcement posture? The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) earlier this year investigated a similar change in Georgia’s Gwinnett County. Newly elected Sheriff Keybo Taylor ended the county’s participation in the 287(g) program his first day in office in 2020.
IRLI’s investigation found that the Gwinnett County sheriff’s office honored ICE requests to hold criminal aliens for custody transfer on a total of 1,652 individuals in 2020. In 2021, that number dwindled to 240 individuals, representing a more than 85 percent decrease in just one year.
The investigation also found a dramatic decrease in ICE holds for noncitizens accused of serious crimes. A total of 240 individuals handed over to ICE in 2020 were charged with felonies. The following year, the number of those charged with felonies and handed over to ICE plummeted to just 27.
A total of 31 individuals with drug trafficking charges—which included the trafficking of meth, heroin, cocaine, morphine, or opium—were handed over to ICE. The following year, that number dwindled down to just four individuals. A total of 14 individuals charged with rape in 2020 were handed over to ICE (five of those were specifically accused of statutory rape—which is rape against a minor). The following year, that number dropped to two.
The results from these case studies is clear. In places that elected sheriffs who ran on an anti-287(g) platform, the number of criminal aliens released back into communities rather than transferred to ICE increased dramatically. In many of these jurisdictions, the number of violent crimes increased as well. Communities are less safe without 287(g) participation, period.
Given this empirical data, it is puzzling why these communities vote for practices that will make their neighborhoods more dangerous. Perhaps Barnstable County residents, like their well-heeled friends in nearby Martha’s Vineyard, practice the same brand of fashionable progressivism and misguided noblesse oblige that leads them to believe supporting sanctuary laws and ending 287(g) agreements make them more virtuous.
As the second-home owners in the Vineyard saw recently when a plane load of illegal aliens arrived, living with the results of their politics is far different from just virtue-signaling them.
In the election night celebration after Buckley’s win, State Senator Julian Cyr said, “We are seeing a shift in our approach to criminal justice.” That might turn out to be an ominous understatement. It will be a shift, indeed, and one that county residents may painfully regret.