After Trust Act signing, Gross defensive
Points to arrests, convictions; ‘How come you never hear about that?’
ONLY MOMENTS AFTER Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed the Immigrant Trust Act, Police Commissioner William Gross fended off questions about his department previously sharing information with federal immigration enforcement under the very sort of circumstances the revised ordinance prohibits.
Since the original 2014 Trust Act, the department has been instructed to ignore detainer requests from federal immigration officials unless the immigrant is wanted for a crime separate from his or her deportation case. The goal is to develop a more trusting atmosphere with immigrants so they are not afraid to approach police about crimes in their communities without the fear of having their personal information turned over to federal authorities.
In October, records obtained by WBUR and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts showed that a Boston police officer had been assigned work as a liaison with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a fact that was the best-known secret in the Boston law enforcement world.
The documents revealed that the officer, Sgt. Det. Gregory Gallagher, had shared information with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement about immigrants that had not committed criminal offenses, which did not comply with the original Trust Act. Gallagher was subsequently removed, but his work undercut the public message put forward by Walsh and Gross that police were only cooperating with ICE in cases involving violent crime and drugs.
“What the ACLU should mention while they’re at it – if you want to talk about being fair and balanced – in 2016 to 2017, there were over 100 arrests of MS-13 and 18th Street gang [members], and 48 convictions in Massachusetts,” said Gross. “How come you never hear about that? Crimes against the undocumented? All you hear about is an email and assuring of this or that. Find the balance. The Boston Police Department has proven we protect the people.”
Gross told reporters he has traveled to El Salvador and Cabo Verde to try to understand the root cause of gang violence. He said he is more interested in the substance of law enforcement as opposed to the sensationalism that surrounded his department’s internal communications.
“I’m not interested in anyone or their opinions when it’s all about sensationalism,” he said. “I’m not interested in civil actions, or administrative warrants, at all. We’re interested in no matter where you hail from, if a crime is committed against you, you should feel comfortable enough to come to the police.”
He reiterated that point several times, along with saying that people who refer to the internal emails aren’t out on the streets.
“I don’t think anybody helps when they talk about one email or two, but they never mention the hundreds of arrests, convictions, or murders solved. We have been to the homicide scenes. We’ve talked to the children,” he said. “I’m not interested in anyone who’s on board with sensationalism to bring a name to their cause or whatever cause, quite frankly, I don’t see them in the streets like we are.”
The biggest change from Boston’s original Trust Act, enacted in 2014, is that there will be clearer definitions if the situations in which Boston Police officers can share information with ICE. The focus will solely be on criminals that have committed violent crimes, and felons. ‘”If you have hesitations or reservations because your like, ‘I’m not sure if I can come forward, they’ll catch my immigration status,”‘ he said, “Well that’s where this comes into play. We’re not interested in your status. We’re interested in if you were a victim of a crime.”
During his official remarks at the signing, Gross said the new Trust Act proves “we are nobody’s agents.” But he also made clear that anyone who breaks the law will have to pay the consequences. “All are welcome, but don’t think you’re going to come in and commit acts of violence against Bostonians,” he said.
“You have sent a powerful message of city values and protections for all Bostonians, no matter who they are, no matter where they come from,” she said.