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Boston police rejected a dozen requests for help from ICE in 2022

Boston Police Commissioner Michael A. Cox.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Boston Police Department rejected a dozen requests for help from federal immigration officials last year in accordance with a local law that seeks to distance the city from federal immigration enforcement by preventing police from engaging in deportation proceedings.

According to a letter from Boston Police Commissioner Michael A. Cox to the city council dated Dec. 31, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that enforces immigration matters, gave the same reason for each of the requests: “[Department of Homeland Security] has determined that probable cause exists that the subject is a removable alien.”

The city’s Trust Act requires the city’s police commissioner to submit a report to the city clerk by the end of each year detailing these federal requests and the reasons behind them. First passed in 2014 and strengthened five years later, the law identifies Boston as a so-called sanctuary city, a term that generally refers to a community that has policies or laws that protect undocumented immigrants and discourage local police from reporting individual immigration statuses, unless the situation involves the probe of a serious crime. The intent was to promote public safety and trust within Boston’s immigrant communities by making clear to immigrants here without authorization that they will not be targeted for deportation if they cooperate with police in unrelated matters.

The law directly prohibits police from engaging in deportation matters or releasing information about a person’s immigration status to federal authorities for the enforcement of immigration matters. (Deportation proceedings are civil cases by nature.)

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However, in past years, confidence in the law was eroded amid repeated reports of incidents of Boston police cooperating with ICE.

In one notable case, Boston police alerted ICE agents of the whereabouts of a man who was wanted for deportation, providing a tip that he would be headed to his worksite at a construction company.

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In October 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts also obtained a trove of documents from Boston police showing that the department had a detective assigned to an ICE task force, and had been cooperating regularly with federal immigration authorities on deportation matters. The relationship raised new questions about police compliance with the Trust Act. The detective was ultimately reassigned.

And in 2020, the Globe reported that city agencies had shared information about Boston Public School students more than 100 times between 2014 and 2018 with a Boston intelligence-sharing network center that included an agent from the Department of Homeland Security, according to documents released by the Lawyers for Civil Rights.

The documents, obtained through a lawsuit the civil rights organization and others filed against the city, contradicted previous statements from school officials that data about students had been shared with federal authorities in only one instance.

The revelations led to pointed questions from city leaders about the relationship between the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, commonly referred to as BRIC, and federal immigration authorities. Such inquiries prompted one local law enforcement official to proclaim: “ICE does not have access to a drop of data that sits within the Boston Police Department, period.”

All of those instances predated Cox’s tenure as commissioner. (He was sworn in last August.)

“The Boston Police Department remains committed to the Boston Trust Act and strengthening relationships with all our communities,” Cox said in his letter to the council. “Boston’s immigrant community should feel safe in reporting crime and in proactively engaging with the Boston Police Department.”

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Milton J. Valencia of Globe staff contributed to this report.




Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.