The ACLU’s secret weapon?

Immigration advocates believe they have a weapon to prevent other local police from joining a controversial federal program that checks the immigration status of anyone arrested, which the Boston Police has been part of for years.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU of Massachusetts learned that police departments can opt out of the Secure Communities program — which aims to deport violent criminals but has also handed noncriminals over to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We at the ACLU are becoming part of a robust effort to push back against it before it does become almost impossible,” the ACLU’s Nancy Murray said during a meeting of immigration activists Tuesday night at Centro Presente’s Somerville office.

“We do have an opening now, especially if only Boston has signed onto it, and the more noise we can make and the more organized we can be, the better.”

Boston officially joined Secured Communities. Opponents argue the program erodes community policing by making immigrants afraid to cooperate with police.

Normally against using his power to enforce federal immigration laws, Police Commissioner Edward Davis has defended the program.

Systemic barriers

The Washington Post reported last Friday that local police departments
can’t opt out of the program, even though it’s widely thought to be
voluntary.

States could refuse to send fingerprints to the FBI, which forwards them
to ICE, but that won’t happen because authorities need to know the
criminal histories of people they arrest.


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