Boston City Council Unanimously Adopts Local Trust Ordinance Limiting Harms of S-Comm.
August 20, 2014 BOSTON — The Boston City Council voted unanimously on August 20 to adopt an ordinance introduced by Councilor Josh Zakim that would limit the damage of the so-called "Secure Communities" program by refusing cooperation with ICE detainer requests in the absence of probable cause. Mayor Walsh publicly pledged to sign the Boston Trust Ordinance when Councilor Zakim first filed the proposal earlier this summer. MIRA celebrates this landmark together with the full Massachusetts Campaign to Restore Trust and the Boston Immigration Group.
The "Secure Communities" program, or S-Comm as it is often called, was messaged by federal authorities as a way to identify and remove dangerous criminals from communities. Yet, ICE's own statistics paint a different picture: In Massachusetts, about half of deportations under S-Comm are not only not of "dangerous criminals," but are of persons who have no criminal history whatsoever. Alarm at the statewide activation of S-Comm by the federal government in 2012 chilled immigrants' willingness to contact police and increased the suffering of victims of domestic violence and other crimes. Moreover, recent litigation around the country has shown that cities, states and counties may be held liable for violating residents' Consitutional rights when they cooperate with ICE detainers, as such detainers do not provide probable cause for holding someone in custody beyond their eligibility for release.
“The Trust Act will not only help protect immigrants, but all residents of the City of Boston,” said Councilor Zakim. “By breaking down barriers to cooperation and allowing police to allocate their limited resources more productively, we will be able to enhance the efficacy of our local law enforcement and maintain the fabric of communities across the city.”
Councilor Tito Jackson noted, "Our role is to include not to exclude, and to protect and serve every single member of our community regardless of whether they have a paper."
As a press release from Councilor Zakim's office stated, "The final version of the ordinance is the result of spirited cooperation between the City Council, Mayor Walsh’s administration, and community advocates." At the ordinance's hearing on July 31, dozens of testimonies from diverse community members consistently praised the Council for tackling S-Comm's damage to community safety and community-police relations, and also urged the Council to adopt a clear rule that complies with the Constitution. Advocates celebrated as they saw the final language was responsive to their input, setting a standard that bars honoring ICE detainer requests without probable cause.
"We thank Councilor Zakim for his leadership and all the Councilors for their support of this commonsense ordinance," said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the MIRA Coalition. "It is especially meaningful that today's vote to defend our Constitutional rights took place in Boston. Advocates first learned of the 'Secure Communities' program years ago after Boston began piloting the program. Today's City Council action rejects a program that has harmed community-police relations and torn apart families, in favor of a policy that protect the rights of all."