Officials announced Thursday how they plan to strengthen city rules that prevent local police officers from assisting their federal counterparts on immigration enforcement.
The original Boston Trust Act, adopted in 2014, was intended by city councilors to keep police from involvement with deporting immigrants. The goal was to build trust between immigrants and local police in matters of public safety, without the looming threat of deportation.
But over the years, immigrant advocates have cited scattered cases in which Boston police assisted federal authorities in identifying and detaining someone for deportation.
The most recent example, first reported by WBUR, was disclosed in a lawsuit brought by the Trump administration that alleged that Boston-based Tara Construction reported the immigration status of a worker to a Boston detective, so that the company could avoid paying him worker’s compensation insurance. The Boston detective then alerted an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, who apprehended the worker.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, who teamed up on the 2014 ordinance, said the proposed modifications will codify efforts to prevent officers from engaging in or using city funds for immigration enforcement.
The proposal would prevent Boston police from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status; detaining someone solely on the basis of a detainer request from federal officials; from making the arrest based on immigration warrants; and from providing personal information regarding a person’s date of release from Boston custody to ICE solely for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws, which are a civil offense.
Walsh said in a statement that, “changes in the law and the national rhetoric has made it necessary for us to update the original sentence.”
The announcement Thursday did not address whether the Boston police detective, Sergeant Detective Gregory Gallagher, violated the original Trust Act. In a testy City Council hearing in April, Police Commissioner William Gross defended Gallagher, saying there were suspicions that the Tara Construction worker had been involved in a crime. The worker has never been charged in relation to the alleged crime.
After the hearing, Zakim said he would work to better spell out what local police should or shouldn’t do.
Zakim and Walsh’s updated proposal will be sent to the full council for a vote.
“Passing the Trust Act in 2014 was a proud moment for the City of Boston,” Zakim said. “In the five years since, immigrants have been scapegoated and attacked by so-called leaders in this country. These updates to the Trust Act . . . are an example of how Boston continues to stand up for our values.”