By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Hoping to meet in the next few weeks with other new mayors from around the country to discuss immigration, Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh on Tuesday said if he could "get around" enforcing the Secure Communities Act, he would.
Walsh attended the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition's annual free Thanksgiving luncheon and spent some time serving mashed potatoes before dishing on how immigrants would have a "friend" in City Hall.
"People that get pulled over, I don't think that necessarily we have to bring in immigration for that," Walsh told reporters before the event.
Asked if he would "continue implementing" Secure Communities in Boston, Walsh said, "If we can get around it, we won't" implement it.
Secure Communities is a program that gathers data submitted by local and state law enforcement for the FBI to perform identity verification and immigration checks on arrestees. Though many immigrant activists argue that the program has eroded the relationship between police and immigrants who are afraid to report crimes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says the program has effectively removed dangerous people from the country.
The program was first presented to states as optional, and Boston was one of the cities that piloted it. Gov. Deval Patrick resisted implementation of Secure Communities in Massachusetts, but in May 2012, the federal government announced it would be mandatory in every state.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat who represents Shirley, and Rep. Carl Sciortino, a Democrat from Medford, have filed legislation, known as the "Trust Act," that is designed to scale back Massachusetts law enforcement's participation in the Secure Communities program.
The bill would limit state enforcement of ICE detainers, provide attorney privileges to individuals before they are interviewed by ICE, and require reimbursement for the expense of participation.
"I'm looking at that. I haven't had a chance to see it yet. I know Mayor Menino was leaning that way, and it's something I'm going to make a decision on very soon," said Walsh, who later in the interview said he is "very strong in favor" of the Trust Act but deferred to Menino, who still occupies City Hall.