City Councilor Proposes ‘Boston Trust Act’

The plan would keep police from holding immigrants for federal officials.

Boston could soon join the growing list of communities across the country that have welcomed legislation preventing local police from detaining people for prolonged periods of time based solely on their immigration status.

During a City Council hearing this week, officials backed a bill filed by Councilor Josh Zakim, which, if passed, would prohibit officers from holding arrestees at the request of Immigration Customs Enforcement officials (ICE), unless they have committed a serious crime, or pose a serious threat to the general public. Zakim’s bill will now head to a City Council committee for further discussion.

Called the “Boston Trust Act,” Zakim’s proposal would allow Boston to distance itself from the federal Secure Communities program enacted in 2012, which gives ICE the authority to ask officers to hold people in custody for up to 48 hours after they have posted bail, so the agency can first investigate their immigration status, and then decide if they will come pick up the individual for possible deportation.

“Boston’s immigrant communities are a special part of our city’s vibrant culture, and we need to ensure that immigrants’ contributions are honored and their rights are respected,” said Zakim in a statement about the legislation. “The Boston Trust Act will do just that, while guaranteeing that ICE will have access to truly dangerous criminals who tear at the fabric of immigrant communities from within.”

Zakim said his proposal would spare Boston taxpayers from incurring the “unnecessary and federally-compelled costs” that come with “overzealous detainer requests” handed down by federal immigration enforcement officers.

According to the details in his proposal, Boston police would only need to hold a suspect under the request of ICE if the individual has a warrant out for their arrest, has ever been convicted of a violent crime, has been convicted of a felony in the last decade, or if they’re on the state’s sex offender registry list.

“These parameters ensure that ICE can thoroughly investigate the immigration status of individuals who pose a threat to our communities and have ample opportunity to take them into ICE custody for immigration violations,” Zakim said in his filing. “Just as importantly, the requirements remove the cloud of suspicion from non-violent immigrants and facilitate a greater spirit of cooperation and willingness to assist local law enforcement.”

Zakim said his plan has already won the support of Mayor Marty Walsh, and he expects the city’s top elected leader to sign the Trust Act pending approval from the City Council.

Walsh said as much during an event last week, when he announced Zakim was working on crafting the legislation. “I’m assuming the council is going to pass the Trust Act, and I’m going to sign the Trust Act,” he told the Boston Globe.

Gabrielle Farrell, a spokesperson from the mayor’s office, told Boston that since January, police have been working closely with Walsh’s Office of New Bostonians to develop safe and fair detention policies to use public safety resources efficiently. “Mayor Walsh supports the Trust Act, and the city’s Corporation Counsel will review the details of Councilor Zakim’s proposal to ensure successful implementation,” she said.

While Boston was one of the first communities to take on the Secure Communities program under former Mayor Tom Menino’s reign, the city won’t be the leader when it comes to repealing some of the tactics allowed under the federal law. In May, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone signed an executive order—similar to Zakim’s—to limit the city’s role when working with ICE, calling Secure Communities a “flawed federal program that has left communities less safe, torn apart families, and deported people with no criminal convictions.”

A statewide Trust Act is also under consideration on Beacon Hill, and is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Trust Act