Metro, Boston

City Council Calls for Hearing to Examine BPD, Trust Act

A hearing to examine how the Boston Police Department (BPD) has been complying with the Trust Act—which says that the BPD cannot aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—has been called in Boston City Council. Councilor Josh Zakim, from the seventh district, called for the hearing during the City Council’s meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The councilor implemented the act in 2014 during his first term. It was intended to let undocumented immigrants know that they can contact police when they are victims of or witness a crime, without fear of being detained. At the time, Zakim said it was the most progressive act in the country regarding ICE.

The vote to enact it was unanimous in the council—signed on by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09—and orders to follow it were issued by then-Commissioner of Police William Evans. Evans, who now serves as Boston College’s chief of police, declined to comment on the matter.

Jose Martin Paz Flores was turned into ICE after he tried to file a worker’s compensation report after an injury, according to recent reporting by the Boston Globe. The Department of Labor has filed a suit saying that Flores’ employer tried to retaliate against him for trying to receive compensation, and the BPD helped Flores in his efforts.

“When the Trump administration’s Labor Department brings charges that you’re cooperating with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement too much, that’s pretty unusual,” Zakim said at the City Council meeting. “That troubles me greatly and something I don’t think anyone in the City of Boston wants to be doing.”

The focus of the hearing would not be on the lawsuit but on evaluating how the law is being followed and what can be improved, Zakim said. He emphasized the City of Boston’s responsibility to make sure that residents feel safe and comfortable contacting the police, regardless of their immigration status. He’d like the hear from the BPD, Walsh administration, and other advocates around Boston at the hearing.

The Council shouldn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to every incident it hears of regarding immigrants, said Councilor Lydia Edwards, but it is responsible to check in and make sure that the ordinance it passed is being followed. She called the passing of the Trust Act a “shining moment” in the city’s history.

“In Boston, immigration status is irrelevant to how you get justice,” she said.

Councilors Edwards, Ed Flynn, Althea Garrison, Kim Janey, and Mark Ciommo signed onto the order for a hearing. The matter has been assigned to the Civil Rights Committee. A hearing date has not been set.

Photo Courtesy of Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff

March 13, 2019