Walsh, Zakim submit changes to immigrant Trust Act

Proposal would strengthen limits on police cooperation with ICE

BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH and City Councilor Josh Zakim submitted legislation on Monday to strengthen a city ordinance that bars city police from cooperating in most cases with federal immigration authorities to detain immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The amendments to the city’s Trust Act would make clear that police are not to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in civil matters, though they can work with immigration agencies in cases involving serious crimes.

The Trust Act, passed by the City Council in 2014, directs police to ignore detainer requests from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, unless the immigrant is wanted for a crime separate from his or her removal case. Since the election of President Trump, immigrant rights groups have urged the city to strengthen the ordinance in response to federal government’s more aggressive focus on immigrant deportation.

Walsh has long claimed that Boston is a place where immigrants can live without fear of being deported because of routine sharing of information between the Boston Police Department and immigration enforcement officials.

Walsh and Zakim first filed the proposal to tighten the language of the Trust Act in June after it was revealed that Boston police helped immigration enforcement officials arrest a construction worker wanted for deportation following his workplace injury claim in 2017. Their proposal underwent further review and revision leading to today’s filing.

Police Commissioner William Gross has testified before the City Council that police were correct to share information with ICE in that case because the man was under investigation for identify theft.

In October, documents obtained by WBUR through a public records request showed that a Boston police officer had been assigned work as a liaison with ICE. The officer, Sgt. Det. Gregory Gallagher, was subsequently removed from that role.

The proposed updates to the city ordinance would also require the police department to report annually on the number detainer requests received from federal officials and the number people it transferred to ICE custody. The department would also be required to train officers on the details of the city ordinance.

In a joint statement released on Monday, Walsh and Zakim said, “Our law enforcement will not be enforcing a federal immigration policy that is flawed and cruel in nature. We urge the Council to take this ordinance for a vote this Wednesday, allowing the Police Department to swiftly train officers on these new requirements.”

The Trust Act preceded a Supreme Judicial Court case that ruled that state and local municipalities don’t have the authority under state law to honor civil immigration detainer requests. The updated Boston Trust Act clarifies points around that, and also dictates that city and department personnel and funds will not be used to interrogate or detain persons solely for immigration enforcement purposes.

City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who has pushed for a strengthening of the ordinance, applauded the proposed changes. “The amended Trust Act strengthens provisions to protect the privacy and security of our immigrant community by preventing unnecessary information disclosure, and ensures Boston police officers are trained in their obligations under local law,” she said.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The proposed update could come to the council for a vote on Wednesday, its last scheduled meeting of the year.