A city ordinance was filed on Thursday to amend the Boston Trust Act, which states that the Boston Police Department (BPD) cannot help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrest someone based on their immigration status. The amendments were proposed by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, and Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor.
“At a time when our federal government keeps drafting cruel policy changes targeting immigrants, in Boston we solely believe in keeping families together and providing them with opportunities so they can fully live their lives,” Walsh said in a press release. “Our Boston Police Department has done a notable job in abiding by the Trust Act, but changes in the law and the national rhetoric has made it necessary for us to update the original ordinance.”
The amendments clarify the roles of BPD officers—they cannot interrogate, detain, or arrest people on the basis of immigration status, which is a federal responsibility. They are prohibited from asking about immigration status, acting as an immigration officer, giving ICE information about a person’s release date for the sole purpose of enforcing civil violations of immigration laws, or detaining someone solely on the basis of a civil immigration detainer request.
A civil immigration detainer request is submitted by federal officers to local law enforcement officers that asks that local officials maintain custody of someone or notify federal officials when someone is going to be released. The Trust Act stated that local law enforcement could not comply with these requests unless there is a criminal warrant. Three years after the Trust Act passed, the case of Lunn v. Commonwealth determined that, under state law, court officers in Massachusetts do not have the authority to hold someone on the basis of a detainer request.
In 2017, ICE submitted 68 civil immigration detainer requests to the BPD, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. In 2018, they submitted 107. All of the individuals were given the opportunity for bail and were not put into ICE custody. Under the new amendments, civil immigration detainer requests will have to provide a reason for the submission.
The Trust Act was unanimously passed in 2014, but its effectiveness was recently called into question after WBUR reported in May of 2017 that a man was arrested by ICE after a BPD officer tipped them off. The man, Jose Martin Paz Flores, tried to file a worker’s compensation report after an injury. His employer allegedly told a BPD detective who then alerted ICE.
The Trust Act, and BPD’s compliance with it, was challenged at a contentious hearing in April, when Boston Police Commissioner William Gross denied any wrongdoing and said that the BPD has always complied by the Trust Act. They were being unfairly scrutinized because of the nation’s political climate and the media was putting the department in a bad light, he said. At the time of the incident, Boston College Chief of Police William P. Evans was the BPD commissioner.
Photo Courtesy of Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons