Boston City Councilors voted Wednesday to take a step back from a federal program that requires local police agencies to expel resources to detain undocumented individuals living in the city before turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.
In a unanimous decision, officials passed the “Boston Trust Act,” which essentially dismantles the city’s obligation to take part in the federal government’s Secure Communities program, which piloted in Boston in 2008.
As Boston reported back in July when Councilor Josh Zakim proposed the Trust Act, police will no longer need to participate in the civil immigration detainer program, 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 investigate their immigration status and decide if they’ll pick up the individual for possible deportation.
“The Trust Act will not only help protect immigrants, but all residents of the city of Boston,” Zakim said in a statement following the Council’s vote on Wednesday. “By breaking down barriers to cooperation and allowing police to allocate their limited resources more productively, we will be able to enhance the efficacy of our local law enforcement and maintain the fabric of communities across the city.”
Boston Police would only need to hold suspects under the request of ICE officials if there is a court-ordered warrant, or if they’ve committed a serious crime that makes them an immediate danger to the general public.
During a brief discussion about the ordinance, City Councilor Sal LaMattina said constituents in his district have been hesitant to come forward and report crimes because of the very real threat of being detained by police, and possibly deported.
Councilor Tito Jackson, who also supported the proposal, voiced similar concerns. “We’ve seen Ponzi schemes directed at immigrant communities, women who have been sexually assaulted, men and women harmed, and many of these people haven’t been able to pick up a telephone to call the police—that doesn’t sound to me like a secure community,” he said, adding that the passage of the bill was one of his “proudest days” as an elected leader.
Zakim argued that data “overwhelmingly” confirms the majority of those detained and deported under the program have no criminal convictions. He said the federal program destroys the important relationship residents should have with the police in their community.
The final version of the ordinance came together with cooperation from Mayor Marty Walsh’s office. The mayor said in previous interviews that he would sign the act if passed by the City Council. The ordinance will take effect immediately after it receives his signature.
In a statement sent to Boston, Kate Norton, a spokesperson from Walsh’s office, said the city is committed to public safety for all who live, work, and visit here.
“Mayor Walsh supports the Trust Act to uphold the rights of immigrants, and to maintain public safety, family unity, and due process in our city,” she said. “With the signage of a local Trust Act we send a clear message to the immigrant community that they have a friend and an ally in Mayor Walsh, Commissioner [Bill] Evans, and the city of Boston. We commend Councilor Zakim and his colleagues on the Council for their leadership on this issue.”
Boston joins a growing list of communities that have chosen to opt out of the federal program. In May, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone flexed his power and signed an executive order limiting the city’s role working with ICE. In a prepared statement, he called the Secure Communities program a “flawed” federal tactic that has torn families apart.
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