Boston has joined a growing number of communities across the nation, including the city of Somerville, in adopting the Trust Act. This new ordinance means Boston Police will no longer be allowed to unnecessarily detain undocumented immigrants for federal officials.
The Boston City Council voted unanimously on August 20 to pass the 'Boston Trust Act,' a city ordinance that will limit Boston’s participation in Secure Communities, the federal government’s civil immigration detainer program. The ordinance holds that the city will no longer accept Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests unless immigration officers have a criminal warrant.
The Trust Act, originally proposed by City Councilor Josh Zakim, has received the support of Mayor Martin J. Walsh . The mayor said in previous interviews that he would sign the act if passed by the City Council and a press release by City Hall after the hearing stated that the administration hopes the ordinance will "play an important role in restoring trust between Boston’s immigrant communities and local law enforcement officials."
This move by Boston City Council is in stark contrast to 2006, when former Mayor Menino and his administration approved a pilot scheme of Secure Communities in the city. The program was not officially launched by the federal government until 2008.
Secure Communities legislation allows ICE to tap into the fingerprint records that state and local police send to the FBI after making an arrest and was set up to improve public safety by targeting criminals and gang members. However since it inception, the program has been widely criticized and many believe that ICE has used it instead to deport immigrants without criminal records.
Many councillors at the hearing on August 20 agreed with Zakim's argument that constituents in the city have been hesitant to come forward and report crimes because of the very real threat of being detained by police, and possibly deported.
“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,”
The final version of the ordinance is the result of cooperation between the City Council, Mayor Walsh’s administration, and community groups including local Irish immigrant and advocacy organizations in Boston.
Ronnie Millar, Executive Director of the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC) has welcomed the news from City Hall. He said "It's great to see the Boston City Council taking a stand for immigrants and for safer communities for all of us. We are confident that passage of the Trust Act will assure undocumented immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses that they don't have anything to fear by providing information to local law enforcement."The ordinance will take effect immediately once it receives the mayor's signature.