“This is a broken system that everyone knows is broken and crying out for reform,” said Mayor Curtatone at a press conference on Wednesday. “Today, Somerville joins the TRUST Act movement to begin this needed change.”
The City of Somerville’s policy is the first in the Commonwealth to limit participation in S-Comm and provide some relief to immigrant families after months of stalled immigration bills in the U.S. Congress. To date, over 60 jurisdictions, including CT and CA, have passed similar policies limiting local application of ICE holds; and MA itself has pending state legislation, the MA Trust Act (S.1135).
“In essence what the Se Communities [program] has done is build a wall between police and community so that they are afraid to come forward with important information,” said Charles Femino, Somerville’s Police Chief. “The City of Somerville takes pride in its diversity. I want my officers to continue with their partnerships with the federal level, protecting our citizens, but we want to do it in a fair way.”
Despite the agency’s misrepresentation, ICE’s own data demonstrates that over half of those deported through S-Comm in MA have had no criminal record or only minor offenses on their record. Immigrant and civil rights groups point to the severe chilling effect caused in immigrant communities when local police are involved in immigration enforcement, causing victims and witnesses of crime to fear reaching out for assistance.
Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente, a statewide immigrant rights organization, said of the mayor’s action, “He has allowed so many parents and children in this city to breathe easier at night knowing that their lives won’t be turned upside down by a simple traffic stop.”
Last week, over 150 organizations delivered a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding an end to the use of ICE holds. The letter came just weeks after the Acting Inspector General of DHS was suspended for corruption that included altering a report that was supposed to address ongoing criticism of S-Comm. The news was followed by calls from civil rights groups and members of Congress, including Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, to call for a new investigation.
On April 17, 19 activists were arrested in a civil disobedience at the Suffolk Detention Center in Boston, MA calling for an end to S-Comm and condemning the President’s record 2 million deportations since taking office.
“The national trend to fight deportations at every level continues and today all eyes are on Massachusetts,” said Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a grassroots network of day laborers and immigrant organizations. “It is time for elected leaders in MA to follow suit by supporting the MA Trust Act to protect residents and prevent liability from unconstitutional holds.”