By John Hilliard
February 9, 2017
BROOKLINE — Selectmen reaffirmed Brookline as a “sanctuary city” this week as town officials consider possible changes to police rules allowing officers to hold suspects on US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.
Brookline is among a growing number of Massachusetts communities — including Newton, Salem, Arlington, and Acton — that have entered the debate over policies aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants since President Trump’s election.
On Tuesday, selectmen approved a statement directing the town’s attorney to coordinate efforts with other communities to develop legal strategies to combat “any punitive measures” from the federal government against sanctuary cities.
It also called for town resources to be available to anyone, regardless of immigration status.
While the term doesn’t have a legal definition, a “sanctuary city” commonly refers to a community that publicly opposes enforcing federal immigration laws.
“We believe the actions of the federal government in targeting and denigrating immigrants and refugees has created an atmosphere of fear and hatred in the country and, potentially, in Brookline, and that attacks on immigrants and refugees must be resisted and combated by all legal means,” said Selectman Bernard Greene, reading from the statement during the meeting.
The selectmen’s statement also called for a review of local police policies on working with federal immigration officials.
In Brookline, the existing police policy allows officers to hold suspects for 48 hours on ICE detainers, a civil order that is not an arrest warrant issued by the judge, Brookline police Chief Daniel O’Leary has told selectmen.
If that person is being held solely on the detainer, and ICE doesn’t take custody, that person will be released, according to a copy of the policy provided to the Globe.
Kelly Race, chairwoman of Brookline’s Commission for Diversity Inclusion & Community Relations, said her board will make a recommendation to selectmen on possible changes to the policy by the end of March.
Race said she is concerned about the role of officers enforcing immigration rules.
“Immigration is a federal responsibility, it’s not the responsibility of local [police],” Race said in an interview.
O’Leary has said that Brookline officers do not routinely ask suspects about their immigration status, nor do local police participate in federal raids to enforce immigration rules.
Police reported to selectmen in December that only a few people each year are arrested with ICE detainers, and almost all have been held on criminal charges. Brookline police do not track cases involving detainers.
Brookline Town Meeting previously approved “sanctuary city” resolutions in 1985 and 2006, but these resolutions do not affect police procedures, said Marty Rosenthal, a former selectman who is co-chairman of the advocacy group Brookline PAX.
Rosenthal said the best way to prevent holding someone solely because of a federal immigration detainer in Brookline is by updating the department’s policies.
“I’m very glad that selectmen are taking this seriously,” said Rosenthal.
Anthony Naro, who is among the Brookline residents reviewing police procedures, said ICE detainers have not been an issue in Brookline because local police do not target immigrants or undocumented persons.
“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that the Brookline Police Department is one of the most progressive departments in the Commonwealth,” Naro said.
Brookline resident Anne Weaver said she is preparing a citizen’s petition to push for a change in the local police ICE detainer policy as soon as possible.
“It’s really disappointing...Brookline hasn’t acted on the sanctuary city policy up to now,” Weaver said.
Trump recently issued an executive order authorizing federal officials to bar sanctuary cities such as Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville from receiving federal funds, except when needed for law enforcement.
Requiring local police to enforce federal immigration law could make it more difficult for officers to help undocumented residents who are crime victims, said Mark Leahy, the executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, in a recent interview.
“Most police chiefs would agree — [immigrants] should enter the country legally and obey our laws. With that said, however they enter the country, we are all in this together in the cities and towns, and we need a relationship,” said Leahy, a former Northborough police chief.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com