Trump administration sues construction firm over ICE tipoff

When the Trump administration busts someone for improperly alerting the feds about an undocumented immigrant, you can bet the case is pretty strong.

The US Department of Labor sued Tara Construction and its CEO over what the department claims was a retaliatory tip-off to the authorities about one of Tara’s workers who is in the country illegally. The CEO allegedly communicated with Boston Police Department officers and facilitated the arrest of someone who had worked for Tara, according to the suit.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts wants to learn more about something the Labor Department turned up in its investigation — the existence of a joint task force between the Boston police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Shannon Dooling, a WBUR reporter, has covered the case since the beginning two years ago when Jose Martin Paz Flores was arrested by immigration enforcement, leaving his family anxious and without income. He was freed from jail after a couple weeks. Originally from Honduras, Paz came to the US by illegally crossing the southern border.

The arrest occurred a few months after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh claimed that, as a last resort, undocumented immigrants threatened by the Trump administration could use City Hall as a place of refuge.

The Boston City Council in 2014 passed the Trust Act, which bars Boston police from detaining people solely at the request of ICE. The Supreme Judicial Court later ruled that such detentions are unconstitutional. Councilor Josh Zakim told The Boston Globe a few years ago that he would consider another ordinance to further limit local police cooperation with immigration enforcement.

As it turned out, Boston police and the head of a local construction firm appear to have worked in coordination to lock up one undocumented immigrant – Paz. Tara Construction, headed by CEO Pedro Pirez, is located in South Boston and it has done work on a South Bay apartment building, according to its website.

On March 29, 2017, Paz was at a jobsite – the labor complaint doesn’t specify where – when he fell from a ladder and broke his leg. Tara hadn’t paid its premium for worker’s compensation insurance so the company’s insurer denied coverage related to Paz’s injury, according to the lawsuit.

Pirez later contacted Boston Police Detective Juan Seone and asked him to look into Paz’s identity, and Seone got in touch with his colleague, Sgt. Detective Gregory Gallagher, who is the department’s liaison to ICE. Gallagher and Pirez met, and Pirez allegedly communicated to Gallagher when Paz would be stopping by the office to pick up some money, according to the suit. Paz was arrested on May 10, 2017, in front of his young son after leaving Tara’s offices.

The claims in the suit comport with what Tara construction’s attorney, Stephen Murray, told WBUR soon after the arrest: that his client had no communication with ICE. The communication was allegedly with the Boston Police’s liaison to ICE. However, the coordination described by the Labor Department contradicts what Pirez told the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. According to the lawsuit, Pirez “testified to OSHA that he did not communicate with any law enforcement officials about when his meeting with Paz would take place and he had no idea how law enforcement knew where Paz would be when Paz was arrested.”

The labor suit doesn’t get into why immigration enforcement wanted to lock up Paz, but a police spokesperson recently told WBUR that Pirez provided information that Paz was involved in some suspected criminal activity. Paz’s lawyers said they have no idea what that would be.

President Donald Trump has throughout his presidency excoriated cities that provide “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants and sought more resources for immigration law enforcement. In this case it is Trump’s Labor Department going after a construction firm executive for allegedly helping law enforcement to arrest someone in the country illegally.

At The Boston Globe, columnist Yvonne Abraham concludes that the whole episode has eroded trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community, and writes that if an employer can violate the rights of undocumented immigrants with impunity, he will be more likely to employ undocumented immigrants over others with greater protections.

–ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker and some of his appointees to the MBTA oversight board are at odds over a broader transportation funding strategy. The board members say T fares shouldn’t be raised in isolation, and should be accompanied by hikes in the gas tax, fees on ride-hailing apps, or congestion pricing. Baker says the focus now should be on raising T fares, and down the road putting a price on carbon in vehicle fuels. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Globe editorial offers a tip of the cap to Sam Tyler, who is retiring after 36 years leading the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George is calling for a hearing on late-night safety in the city following the abduction of Jassy Correia outside a downtown nightclub. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley filed an amendment to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in federal elections. Gov. Charlie Baker isn’t buying it.  “I did raise three teenagers and based on that I’d be pretty dubious about lowering it to 16,” he said. (Boston Globe) Secretary of State Bill Galvin said it’s a good idea to have the debate. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

Elizabeth Warren is trying to rev up her small-dollar donation drive as she places a risky bet that a groundswell of grassroots support can make up for the big-donor receptions she has sworn off. (Boston Globe)

Embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II is raking in donations from local marijuana companies. (Herald News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new report says the state’s population of Latinos is growing quickly, and will represent more than 15 percent of the state’s population by 2035. (MassLive)

The Saugus and Lynn chambers of commerce are merging. (Daily Item)

Seeing — or, more accurately, not seeing — may be believing, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is vowing to dramatically increase privacy protections of information on the vast social network. (Boston Globe)

The Swansea Mall is being made available for purchase through an online auction, according to Town Selectman Christopher Carreiro. The mall will be closing March 31. (Herald News)

EDUCATION

Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation to strengthen state oversight of private colleges in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell, in a Globe op-ed, argues that the city must give its next school superintendent the running room to implement his or her vision, and argues that a lack of resources is not the chief obstacle holding the district back.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Eli Lilly is offering a generic version of its popular insulin product Humalog at half the price. (MarketWatch)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA has said 2019 will be a turning point for the transit agency, the time when riders begin to see the benefits of the investments over the last three years. A monitoring group, consisting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the MBTA Advisory Board, is doubtful, but gives the agency credit for meeting most of its short-term strategic goals. (CommonWealth) MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak meets with Worcester residents and officials on the agency’s proposed fare hike — and most said they were skeptical the higher fares would lead to better service. (Telegram & Gazette)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to launch two more pilots of dedicated bus lanes and develop dropoff-pickup spots for ride-hailing apps. The proposals are baby steps, but the mayor is hopeful a new two-person transit team can pick up the pace. (CommonWealth) Critics say the city could do a much better job at synchronizing traffic light patterns. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Toxic chemicals have been found in well water in seven Massachusetts communities. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker touts his administration’s work promoting wind energy, but advocates say the state could go further. (Boston Globe) Meanwhile, lawmakers are thinking about doing away with a requirement that future wind farm contracts must offer a lower price than the contract price negotiated with Vineyard Wind. (Boston Globe)

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is being granted new and improved performance standards by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission just three months before it shutters. (Cape Cod Times)   

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that a defendant in a sex trafficking case can be compelled to provide his cellphone password and that such an order doesn’t violate constitutional protections against self-incrimination. (Boston Globe)

A former transit police officer who allegedly beat a homeless man and two sergeants who allegedly tried to cover up the incident that occurred at Ashmont Station last July are facing charges brought by Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins. (Associated Press)

Suspended Amesbury police officer Larry Bybee has resolved criminal charges that punched his son in the face and slammed his head against a bathroom wall, and he will avoid jail time. (Eagle Tribune)

A woman from Easton is pleading not guilty to several charges, including a civil rights violation, for allegedly hurling racist slurs and assaulting a Haitian-American woman at a Brockton Market Basket in February. (Brockton Enterprise)

MEDIA

President Trump personally intervened in the merger of media giants AT&T and Time Warner in order to punish CNN, according to Jane Meyer’s New Yorker expose. (Media Nation)