Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO
Saying Somervillians know what's best for their community, Mayor Joseph Curtatone said that the city's police officers will no longer hold undocumented immigrants solely for the purpose of deportation.
Curtatone made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday morning in front of City Hall.
The order means that police will only hold undocumented immigrants if immigration authorities have a warrant or there is a law enforcement purpose beyond immigration status.
Curtatone spoke out about the controversial federal Secure Communities program which mandates police departments provide information on arrestees to federal agencies including U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
"This program it just tears apart families who have committed no crime. It deports otherwise law-abiding individuals for offenses as small as a broken taillight," Curtatone said. "We are not going to waste our time and resources on people who are valuable, contributing members of our community who have tried to play by the rules only to find out there's not line to get into to become a citizen.
"We, we know what's best for our communities. We know what demands our attention that not only is immigration enforcement not our job, but under the broken system today, it weakens and undermines the communities we have have worked so hard to build together."
Proponents of the move said the order is the first of its kind in the state and would create better relationships between the immigrant community and police. Proponents are also pushing for Massachusetts communities to join the national Trust Act movement, which would only allow the holding of an undocumented immigrant for deportation if he or she is charged with or convicted of a serious offense.
Curtatone was pressed about the recent case of Nicolaus Guaman, an Ecuadoran immigrant living in the country illegally who was sentenced this week to jail for driving drunk, running over and killing a Milford man. Guaman had a prior record and his arrest became a focal point of the Secure Communities debate.
"To state that blindly detaining people just based on their immigration status is going to prevent that crime, or crimes like that, is not the case. What it is doing is driving a deeper divide," Curtatone said, saying that nationally more than half of the people deported under Secure Communities had no criminal convictions.
Opponents have said that not holding undocumented immigrants creates a safe haven.
A bill to decrease the state's participation in the controversial federal Secure Communities program is currently in the state Senate Ways and Means Committee.