For decades the City of Boston and Boston Police have fostered a relationship with East Boston’s immigrant population through successful community policing programs. This relationship has led to a decrease in crime, more reporting of crime and trust between police and the immigrant community–regardless of citizenship status.
However, the rhetoric from Washington D.C. conmcering undocumented people has led to an increase in fear among Eastie’s immigrant population. Mayor Martin Walsh and Police Commissioner William Gross worried it would lead to undocumented people not reporting a crime out of fear of deportation. This was especially worrying when the undocumented person is a victim of a crime like domestic abuse or assualt.
Flanked by community activists, city councilors and the police commissioner Wednesday at the East Boston Library on Bremen Street, Mayor Martin Walsh signed an updated version of the Boston Trust Act.
Through an ordinance approved unanimously by the Boston City Council last week with the goal of ensuring a safe and welcoming City for all, the Boston Trust Act promotes trust in local law enforcement officials and City government. The Act clearly defining the distinct roles and responsibilities of the Boston Police Department (BPD) from those of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Updating the Trust Act is a step we take proudly as a city that allows us to continue leading with our values,” said Mayor Walsh. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen national rhetoric on immigration take an ugly and dangerous turn, even in an immigrant-friendly city like Boston. We need to take a stand, and this updated version will bolster trust in our communities and protect public safety. I want to thank everyone, especially the staff and advocates, who worked on this ordinance that will make our whole city stronger.”
The Boston Trust Act was originally signed into law by Mayor Walsh in 2014. The amendments build on the original ordinance, making clear the role of Boston Police officers, outlining how they will not: ask individuals about their immigration status, share information with ICE, make arrests based solely on ICE administrative warrants, perform the functions of federal immigration officers, and transfer an individual to ICE custody. The revisions maintain an annual reporting requirement to the City Clerk and adds a requirement for the Boston Police Department to train all officers on these amendments.
“It’s the duty of the Boston Police Department to protect everyone in the City of Boston, regardless of who they are or what their immigration status might be,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Gross. “Our police officers do their level best to do their jobs correctly, professionally and with compassion. Everyone should have faith and confidence that Boston Police are here to serve and keep every person who lives, works and visits Boston safe.”
The amendments also distinguish between ICE’s two main divisions: the Enforcement and Removal Operations division (ICE-ERO) and the Homeland Security Investigations division (ICE-HSI). The Boston Police Department will not work with either division solely for civil immigration enforcement purposes, while continuing to work with the ICE-HSI division on matters of significant public safety importance, such as human trafficking, child exploitation, drug and weapons trafficking, and cybercrimes.
The updated ordinance furthers its original intent of ensuring that immigrants who live and work in Boston can trust the Boston Police Department, while preserving their ability and responsibility to serve and protect victims, hold criminal offenders accountable, and ensure public safety for all, including native and immigrant residents alike.
“This is a big victory for Boston’s immigrant communities,” said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). “We’re very grateful to the Mayor and the City Council, and to our fellow advocates, for putting an end to local involvement in civil deportations and restoring community confidence in police. Congratulations to all the stakeholders who worked so hard to achieve this highly significant advance. You have sent a powerful message that this city values and protects all Bostonians, no matter who they are or where they come from.”
Since the signing of the Boston Trust Act in 2014, the Boston Police Department has submitted an annual report to the City Clerk with the number of civil immigration detainer requests received. Reports from the Boston Police Department show that in 2017 and 2018, ICE lodged 68 and 107 civil immigration detainer requests respectively, which all were given access to bail by BPD and were not transferred to ICE custody. Those that did not post bail were transported to the court for arraignment, moving out of BPD’s authority. The updated ordinance keeps requiring the department to report this information, including the reasons for civil immigration detainer requests.
Since the start of the Trump Administration’s implementation of an immigration restrictionist agenda, Mayor Walsh has been opposed to proposed changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from multiple countries, the proposed redefinition of “public charge,” and HUD’s proposed rule to expel from public housing mixed-status families paying prorated rent.