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Council to probe ICE, Boston police

Zakim calls hearing to examine extent of police cooperation with ICE

Trea Lavery

City Councilor Josh Zakim has called for a hearing on the Boston Police Department’s involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement following the 2017 arrest by ICE of an immigrant worker in Boston.

“The hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts who may not be documented … have every right to be free from persecution, to call the police when they’re the victim or witness of a crime,” Zakim said in a City Council meeting last week, where he brought up Boston’s 2014 Trust Act, which prohibits Boston police from detaining undocumented immigrants for ICE.

Zakim told the Banner that his hearing order was prompted by this particular incident, in which Jose Martin Paz Flores, a worker who filed for workers’ compensation was arrested when a BPD officer, as part of a BPD-ICE task force, became involved in the case. However, Zakim said that he also wants to look more closely at the Trust Act to be sure it is being followed, and update it if necessary to better secure Boston’s status as a “sanctuary city.”

“It was a pre-Trump era and things have changed,” Zakim said. “We want to be proactive. Can we do better?”

Councilor Lydia Edwards voiced her support for Zakim at the council meeting, saying that the Trust Act was an important “sigh of relief” for immigrants in the city and stressing how important it is for immigrants to be able to trust law enforcement.

“They are not supposed to double as both police and agents of immigration,” Edwards said. “At the end of the day, it does not serve us well to co-mingle those things.”

In a statement, Council President Andrea Campbell also spoke against the police department’s involvement with ICE.

“We cannot salute ourselves as a sanctuary city when we see an undocumented immigrant handed to immigration enforcement after asserting his legal right to owed wages,” Campbell said. “We must recognize the fear rippling through our immigrant communities and act quickly to address BPD’s policies if we want our immigrant residents to feel safe and assert their legal rights.”

In the case Zakim highlighted, Sergeant Detective Greg Gallagher contacted ICE about the worker, who was believed to have used a false green card under a different name to acquire work, according to an investigation report shared with the Banner. In an earlier case, police who had arrested an undocumented immigrant and charged him with forgery of a registry document and driving with a revoked license stemming from an August 8, 2018 traffic stop notified Gallagher of the arrest. Although the defendant was not charged with a violent crime or a narcotics violation, he was nevertheless taken into ICE custody after Gallagher was notified.

Both cases appear to contradict Boston’s status as a sanctuary city, where police do not cooperate with federal immigration officials when undocumented immigrants are arrested for minor offenses.

Mayor Martin Walsh said that he was unhappy with how the Flores case, which is still being investigated, was handled. When asked why the BPD needed an ICE task force, Walsh said the city generally doesn’t cooperate with the federal agency.

“We’ve had hundreds of cases that we have not cooperated with ICE on,” Walsh said.

According to documents shared with the Banner by the Mayor’s Office, the BPD declined to comply with 107 detainer requests from ICE in 2018 and 68 in 2017.

A spokesman for the Boston Police Department previously told the Banner that the department has one officer who serves as a liaison to ICE, presumably Gallagher, as they do with other federal agencies.

The BPD has not responded to multiple requests since December 2018 for more information on the duties and scope of the task force.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts also filed a public records request earlier this month for information on the task force.

Zakim said that he thinks the police department has done well with following the Trust Act since it was signed into law five years ago, but that Boston still has a further responsibility to the immigrants that make up so much of its population.

“We have our great delegation in Washington that is working very hard to fix this problem at the federal level,” Zakim said. “But cities and towns and states in the meantime have a responsibility to do the best we can.”

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