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Amendments to 'Boston Trust Act' announced

The updated City ordinance clarifies the roles of local law enforcement officials and federal immigration laws.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Councilor Josh Zakim today announced amendments to the "Boston Trust Act," a City ordinance that delineates the work of local law enforcement officials and federal immigration laws. Originally passed unanimously by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Walsh in 2014, the updated ordinance furthers its original intent of ensuring immigrant integration and advancement by reassuring that local authorities shall not detain someone solely on civil immigration detainer requests or administrative warrants, and shall not transfer someone to immigration authorities unless ordered by judicial authorities.

"At a time when our federal government keeps drafting cruel policy changes targeting immigrants, in Boston we solely believe in keeping families together and providing them with opportunities so they can fully live their lives," said Mayor Walsh. "Our Boston Police Department has done a notable job in abiding by the Trust Act, but changes in the law and the national rhetoric has made it necessary for us to update the original ordinance. This updated Trust Act further clarifies the roles of our officers, while keeping our residents' safety as the main goal. I thank Councilor Zakim for his collaboration and thorough review of the ordinance."

"Passing the Trust Act in 2014 was a proud moment for the City of Boston," Councilor Josh Zakim said. "In the 5 years since, immigrants have been scapegoated and attacked by so-called leaders in this country. These updates to the Trust Act that Mayor Walsh and I are announcing today, are an example of how Boston continues to stand up for our values. Our City's resources and law enforcement personnel should be used to protect Bostonians, not to enforce failed federal immigration policy. I look forward to working with Mayor Walsh, my colleagues on the Council, and advocates in the community to enact these amendments swiftly."

A civil immigration detainer request is a request by federal immigration officers to local law enforcement officials to maintain custody of someone and advise federal officials prior to their release. Since the signing of the Boston Trust Act, the Boston Police Department has submitted a report to the City Clerk with the number of civil immigration detainer requests received; the number of individuals that City law enforcement officials detained; the number of individuals transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody; and the total cost reimbursements received from the federal government.

Reports from the Boston Police Department show that in 2017 and 2018, ICE lodged 68 and 107 civil immigration detainer requests respectively, which all were given access to bail by BPD and were not transferred to ICE custody. Those that did not post bail were transported to the court for arraignment, moving out of BPD's authority. The updated ordinance keeps requiring the department to report this information, including the reasons for civil immigration detainer requests.

The Boston Trust Act preceded the Lunn v. Commonwealth case where the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts and its municipalities do not have the authority under state law to honor civil immigration detainer requests. The updated Boston Trust Act maintains its main clause: local law enforcement shall not detain a person solely on the basis of a civil immigration detainer request issued by a federal immigration officer, or an administrative warrant issued by a federal immigration officer.

The Boston Trust Act codifies that local law enforcement officials enforce state laws and local ordinances. Further clarifying their roles with federal immigration laws, the updated Boston Trust Act directs that City and department personnel and funds shall not be used to interrogate, detain, or arrest persons solely for immigration enforcement purposes, which are federal responsibilities, including:

  • Inquiring of an individual's immigration status;
  • Detaining someone solely on the basis of a civil immigration detainer request;
  • Providing personal information regarding a person's release date to ICE solely for the purpose of enforcing civil violations of U.S. immigration laws;
  • Making arrests on the basis of ICE administrative warrants, and;
  • Performing the functions of an immigration officer.

The ordinance builds on Boston's immigrant advancement work and its efforts to mitigate the impact of federal immigration restrictions on the City's immigrants. Since the start of the Trump's Administration reform on the immigration system, Mayor Walsh has been opposed to proposed changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the proposed redefinition of "public charge," and HUD's proposed rule to expel from public housing mixed-status families paying prorated rent.

Mayor Walsh recently included $50,000 in his FY20 Budget proposal dedicated to the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, a public-private partnership that works to increase education and access to legal services to defend its many immigrant communities, refugees, and temporary status holders. Originally designed as a two-year pilot, the Fund demonstrated that Boston residents make up the largest percentage of the cases opened among the 38 cities and towns served by the Defense Fund. City funds included in the FY20 Budget will jumpstart the third year of the Fund.

For more information on Boston's immigration work, please visit the Immigrant Advancement website.

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