The Boston Police Department refused to detain 15 immigrants they arrested last year so that federal deportation officers could pick them up, based on a city policy that has drawn criticism from President Trump.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed the requests for Boston Police to hold the immigrants in 2016, when President Obama was still in office, according to an annual report the police department is required to file with the city since the City Council passed its version of the Trust Act in 2014. The act bars the police from turning over immigrants to ICE for immigration violations.
“The Department did not directly transfer any of the suspects to ICE custody,” Police Commissioner William B. Evans said in a Jan. 31 letter to the City Clerk.
Police did not disclose the names or criminal records of the people wanted by immigration officers, so the Globe could not independently verify the details of their cases. But the Obama administration’s priorities for deportation at that time were serious criminal offenders.
Boston police said three of the immigrants posted bail for their alleged crimes and were released before their court arraignments. The remaining 12 defendants were taken to court directly for arraignment; police said they did not know what happened to them next.
In 2015, the Boston police turned over nine people to ICE for deportation — all immigrants with criminal records — because of a loophole in the city ordinance that apparently did not come into play last year.
Boston’s Trust Act only allows police to turn over immigrants to ICE if they are wanted for a crime — in addition to the one that got them arrested by police.
However, the act bars police from turning over undocumented immigrants to ICE if they are only wanted for civil immigration violations.
The City Council said they passed the act because they do not want otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants to be afraid to report crime to police. Proponents of the act also argued that police do not have the authority to detain someone after a judge has ordered them released in their criminal cases, even if that person is wanted for deportation.
But others, including Trump, criticize such policies for letting some immigrants with serious criminal records avoid deportation officers.
During the campaign he labeled such cities “sanctuary cities” and last month he issued an executive order seeking to punish them for refusing to cooperate with ICE.
He instructed the Attorney General and the Homeland Security secretary to ensure that such cities are not eligible for federal grants, unless the funds are essential for law enforcement. Trump also ordered Homeland Security to issue a weekly “Declined Detainer Outcome Report” and make public the “criminal actions” committed by any immigrant in a city or town that refuses to honor an immigration detainer.
After Trump issued the order, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the president’s executive orders “a direct attack on Boston’s people” and offered to shelter immigrants in City Hall.Maria Sacchetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mariasacchetti