By Beth Treffeisen
Special to the Gazette
Following the recent election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States and his recent threats to the nation’s immigrant communities, Boston officials have come out in continued support of protecting immigrants from deportation.
Boston is already a sanctuary city under the Trust Act that prohibits the Boston Police Department from detaining individuals based on their immigration status.
The Trust Act was unanimously passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Martin Walsh in 2014.
“There are no exceptions to this rule,” said City Councilor Josh Zakim, who represents a portion of Jamaica Plain along S. Huntington Ave., in a statement. “In Boston we value and respect our city’s immigrant communities and the Trust Act is a statement of those values, providing sanctuary from the type of immoral and illegal federal overreach that President-elect Trump has promised throughout his tawdry campaign.”
Currently, the Boston Police Department (BPD) does not hold undocumented immigrants for deportation unless there is a warrant from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The BPD does not participate in the deportation of undocumented immigrants, and has no plans to change this longstanding practice.
Councilor Zakim looks forward to working with his colleagues, including Mayor Martin Walsh and the BPD, on this issue to further strengthen relationships with Boston’s immigrant communities.
“I also call upon Gov. Charlie Baker to join us by finally supporting a statewide Trust Act which would further protect immigrants in Massachusetts,” said Councilor Zakim in a statement.
Gov. Baker repealed former Gov. Deval Patrick’s probation on using state law enforcement to detain immigrants.
Zakim continued by saying, “Unfortunately the governor’s recent track record – which includes ordering the State Police to enforce ICE detainers on behalf of the federal government – demonstrates the same lack of courage that led him to take no position in the Presidential election.”
Under the Trust Act, a law enforcement official shall not detain an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer request or an ICE administrative warrant after the individual is eligible for release from custody, unless ICE has a criminal warrant, issued by a judicial officer for the individual.
A civil immigration detainer request is a non-mandatory request authorized by a federal immigration officer to a local law enforcement official to maintain custody of an individual for a period of time no greater than 48 hours.
An ICE administrative warrant means a warrant was issued by a federal immigration officer, not a judicial officer, which does not confer detention authority on a local jurisdiction.
Mayor Martin Walsh also has come out in support of immigrant families, no matter where they come from.
“We are a welcoming city for all and are committed to fostering an environment where all members of our community have opportunities to contribute and thrive,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “Those are Boston’s values and no policy will change them.”
He continued, “At this time, there are no official proposals to change any programs or funding from the federal government. Working with the Boston Police Department, we will continue our work to build trust in our communities because everyone who lives, works, or visits our city deserves to feel safe and be protect.”
City Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents a portion of Egleston Square, also came out concerned after hearing comments by President-elect Donald Trump during his 60 Minutes interview where he stated that he was going to deport approximately 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants.
Jackson wants to make it clear that if people are undocumented and if something unlawful happens to them they have the right to go to the police without having to worry that they will be deported.
“There has been a lot of anxiety and worries amongst school children and families,” said Heshan Berents-Weeramuni, the director of communications and external affairs for Councilor Jackson. “We want them to know that they should continue to send their kids to schools because that’s where they belong.”
Currently the city’s neighbors Cambridge and Somerville are also sanctuary cities, along with Portland, Maine and New Haven, Connecticut.