CITY TO LIMIT PARTICIPATION IN SECURE COMMUNITIES PROGRAM

CITY TO LIMIT PARTICIPATION  IN SECURE COMMUNITIES PROGRAM

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone to sign an executive order returning discretion on protecting community to local law enforcement officials

 

PDF icon links to a download of the executive order

Click here to view the signed executive order (PDF)

 

SOMERVILLE
– Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced at a press conference this morning that
he will sign an executive order that will limit Somerville’s participation in
Secure Communities, a flawed federal program that has left communities less
safe, torn apart families and deported people with no criminal convictions.

The
Secure Communities program allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) to ask local law enforcement to hold arrested immigrants for up to 48
hours after the person has posted bail or been ordered released by the courts. Nationwide,
half of the people deported through Secure Communities nationwide have no
criminal convictions. In Massachusetts, there have been more than 1,000
deportations since the program was enacted two years ago, and 61 percent of the
people deported have no criminal convictions—and in some cities and towns in
Massachusetts, that percentage rises to 79 percent. ICE has admitted that about
5 percent of people held under detainers turn out to be U.S. citizens.

Mayor
Curtatone’s executive order places its trust in Somerville law enforcement
officials and returns to them the discretion on how to best protect the people
and property of the city. The executive order will stipulate that unless ICE
agents have a criminal warrant or Somerville officials have a legitimate law
enforcement purpose unrelated to enforcement of immigration laws, ICE agents
shall not be given access to individuals or allowed to use City facilities for
investigative interviews or other purposes.

“Secure
Communities leaves us anything but secure. It began with the best intentions,
but in practice tears apart families who have committed no crime, deports
otherwise law-abiding individuals for offenses as small as a broken tail light,
and asks our law enforcement officials to not use their best judgment and
discretion, but instead to blindly hold individuals for immigration with no
probable cause—an act that a federal court recently ruled is a violation of the
Fourth Amendment,” said Mayor Curtatone. “This is a broken system that everyone
knows is broken and crying out for reform. Today, Somerville joins the TRUST Act
movement to begin this needed change.”

“When people with no criminal
convictions are deported, something is wrong,” said John Connolly, At-Large Alderman
and Chair of the Public Safety and Health Committee of the Board of Alderman.
“As a longtime champion of public safety here in Somerville, I’m concerned with
protecting our families, not persecuting them. Make no mistake, if someone is
guilty of a serious crime or a threat to our community, we will prosecute and
take all precautions necessary to protect our citizens.”

“This is an important action to
help our immigrant communities here in Somerville and to stand up for what is
right in the way that we treat immigrants who have come here to improve their
families lives and contribute their hard work to our community,” said Ward 5
Alderman Mark Niedergang. “This will also enhance public safety by encouraging
immigrants to contact the police when they have been the victim of a crime or
when they have knowledge of a crime.”

Roughly 63 percent of the
undocumented population living in the United States has been in the country for
more than 10 years. Mayor Curtatone’s executive order will eliminate any fear
held by those people who are witnesses or victims to crimes that they will be
deported for reporting a crime to law enforcement officials.

“Crime
in Somerville is down by one-third since 2008, not because we put more officers
on the street or deported people with no criminal convictions, but because we
addressed every factor that affects public safety, including supporting strong
families and strong education,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Ripping apart families
removes the first line of defense against a young person walking down the wrong
path and making bad decisions. It engenders fear in the immigrant community
that discourages witnesses and victims from cooperating with police, which is
vital to law enforcement officials investigating and solving crimes.”

From
2008 to 2011, ICE placed more than 5,000 detainers on Massachusetts residents,
and 75 percent of those people—which included some minors—had no criminal
record. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, approximately 66 percent
of deportation cases—more than 2 million nationwide—involve someone who
committed a minor infraction, such as a traffic violation, or had no criminal
record.

In February, a federal judge
ruled on a class action suit on detention policies, allowing Massachusetts and
Connecticut residents, and others held by ICE, to challenge the lengthy
detention of people who pose no danger to the community. In his ruling, U.S. District
Judge Michael Ponsor rejected the government’s “dubious interpretation” of
immigration statutes and characterized the government’s arguments as unable to
“withstand scrutiny.” Federal courts in Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island
have also ruled that holding people for ICE without probable cause violates
constitutional rights, and nine sheriffs in Oregon decided to stop honoring ICE
detainer requests because of the court’s decision.

“This
executive order will free up our law enforcement officials and place our trust
back in them to go after real, legitimate threats to our community’s safety,
find them, arrest them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” said
Mayor Curtatone. “Our officials will continue to cooperate and work with ICE,
but will no longer participate in violating the constitutional right of due
process, or waste our time and resources on people who are valuable,
contributing members of our community who tried to play by the rules, only to
find that there was no line to get into to become a citizen.”

More than 60 municipalities
have modified their policies on ICE holds, including New Orleans, Newark, N.J.,
Miami, San Francisco and New York City. Both California and Connecticut have
passed statewide TRUST Acts, a version of which is before the Massachusetts
State Legislature. Massachusetts’ bill would provide that individuals ordered
released by Massachusetts judges and magistrates will not be detained for ICE
in spite of the court’s release order, that those with criminal records will go
to ICE, and those without criminal records will not.

A signing ceremony for the executive order will take place on Thursday, May 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the Somerville Public Safety Building, 220 Washington St. in Somerville.