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Boston Considers Immigration Enforcement Proposal

Philip Marcelo, Associated Press
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(Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

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BOSTON (AP) — Boston police would be barred from detaining immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally unless they are wanted for serious crimes, under a proposal introduced Wednesday.

If approved by the City Council, the measure would reverse a key part of the city’s immigration policy under former Mayor Thomas Menino. The proposed ordinance has the support of Mayor Martin Walsh.

Boston was one of the first cities to pilot what became the federal government’s “Secure Communities” program in 2006. The program, which now covers thousands of jurisdictions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, authorizes the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to access fingerprint records made by state and local police following arrests. The agency is then able to request local police detain suspected illegal immigrants for up to 48 hours, even if the person is otherwise eligible for release.

City Councilor Josh Zakim, who formally submitted the measure, said its intention is to make sure all Boston residents feel safe in their dealings with city police.

“There is no due process when a federal agent asks the Boston police to hold that person for another 48 hours while they investigate their immigration status,” said Zakim, who represents the city’s affluent Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. “That’s not something the Boston Police Department should be expending their resources on. That’s not something the City of Boston, as a beacon for immigrants, should be participating in.”

Under his proposed ordinance, police shall not be required to detain individuals for federal immigration authorities unless there is a criminal warrant for the person’s arrest or the person has been convicted of a violent crime, convicted of a felony in the last decade, is on the state’s sex offender registry or is on the federal government’s terrorist watch list.

The so-called “Trust Act” was referred to the council’s government operations committee. It is similar to measures filed in other jurisdictions in response to Secure Communities, which critics say has bred mistrust of local authorities because immigrants arrested for relatively minor crimes can potentially face deportation.

In neighboring Somerville, Mayor Joseph Curtatone signed an executive order earlier this year limiting that city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities on detention requests. A similar proposal affecting communities across the state is also pending in the Massachusetts legislature.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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