Legislation Seeks to Improve Public Safety, Restore Trust in Law Enforcement, and Prevent Unjust Deportations
Boston, MA (March 19, 2014) — State legislation that would curtail the use of local and state resources on federal deportation quota programs passed out of the Joint Public Safety committee today. The measure (SB 1135), known as the MA Trust Act, is mirrored after similar bills already in effect in the Cook County, IL, Washington, DC, and California and is part of a wave of local legislative responses to to the troubled federal “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) deportation program whose implementation Governor Patrick sought to prevent in Massachusetts in 2011.
Boston, MA was a pilot location for S-Comm, and today across the state, 68% of persons deported through the program have no criminal convictions whatsoever or were only accused of minor offenses. Since revelations about the program’s impact on public safety became public, half a dozen Massachusetts mayors have come out in opposition to the program. In fact, a national study by the University of Illinois Chicago found that nearly half of Latinos surveyed were less likely to call police if witness to or victim of a crime out of fear of inquiry into their immigration status. Senator Eldrige and Representative Scortino sponsored the MA TRUST Act, with state-wide support from the Massachusetts TRUST Act Coalition, to remedy the situation and restore trust in law enforcement by preventing submission to burdensome and overreaching ICE hold requests.
Senator James Eldridge, Senate lead sponsor of the bill, said in response, “I’m extremely happy that the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security has favorably reported out the Trust Act today. I’m deeply grateful to the committee chairs, Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Clinton) and Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole), for their support of a bill that will limit local law enforcement’s submission to unjust, unnecessary, and unsafe federal deportation programs, therefore restoring the trust between immigrant communities and police, and increasing the public safety for all residents in Massachusetts.”
Jorge Sanchez Berduo, a member of Just Communities and immigrant resident of Hamden County who was detained for two weeks on an ICE hold and finally released – without charges – after sustained pressure said about the impact of ICE holds, “The time I spent detained on an ICE hold changed my life, my family went through enormous economic hardship, my mother became sick with worry, and even now, we live with a new level of fear. We need the MA Trust Act.”
Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network that has coordinated TRUST initiatives and was a sponsor of the California bill, added, “Today Massachusetts takes a step toward inclusion and a step away from the misguided federal programs that brought Arizona-like policies to every corner of the country. While the Beltway continues to debate itself about which way forward on immigration, states across the country are leading the way with proactive legislation. Passing the TRUST Act concretely keeps families together and rejects the criminalization of our communities. ICE’s programs like S-Comm have created a state of terror for immigrants that Massachusetts is poised to to fix.”
Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente, added, “This is an important step forward for Massachusetts, and we are ready to take the next step and secure swift passage of the MA Trust Act. We need to hold local and state officials accountable for playing accomplice to misguided and cruel federal deportation policy, and we are ready to stand with our officials that stand with our communities.”