Another Local Officer Under the Gun for Cooperating with ICE

This time in Boston

By Dan Cadman on November 7, 2019

This is the third occasion in a relatively short period of time in which I've raised the issue of sanctuary jurisdictions going after their own police officers for working with — or even, in one instance responding to a 911 call from — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (see here and here).

The most recent instance came to light in Boston during the latter part of October, when the Boston Globe published a piece on October 25, "Documents show Boston officer worked closely with ICE: Actions could violate city rules on role of police" (behind a paywall).

But before I briefly get into the details, it's worth reviewing some of the premises behind sanctuary thinking. Sanctuary jurisdictions claim that this barring of cooperation or any kind of contact between police and ICE is for the good of the "immigrant community" because it instills the trust needed for police to be effective at their work and to encourage this amorphously described community to cooperate with them. The fallacies in such thinking are multiple:

  • First, it fails to distinguish between aliens who are legally vs. illegally in the United States by lumping them (almost certainly deliberately) together.
  • Second, and perhaps more egregious, it presupposes that everyone who is an immigrant acts in the same way, and thinks and believes exactly the same thing.
  • Third, and most egregious, even among those who may be living in the United States illegally, it presupposes that they would prefer to see police release criminals and predators back into their community, where as often as not the offense(s) occurred in the first place, and as often as not the victim was a resident of that community.

Does any of that make sense? I don't think so. But let's go further and do a little thought experiment. Let's substitute the phrase "African-American community" for "immigrant community". It is neither hyperbole nor a surprise to anyone at all when I note that, like some immigrant communities, there is a trust gap between the police and many African-American communities. But that lack of trust doesn't spring from outside sources, does it? Rightly or wrongly it springs from the way they believe police interact with them.

In this thought experiment, let's go further yet. Imagine the reaction of members of the African-American community to an announced policy that henceforth, in the interests of community relations, the police will take a soft approach toward crime — even violent crimes against persons or property — and strive to promptly release arrested individuals back into the community as a way to ensure that members of that community will in the future be predisposed to report offenses and cooperate with police. Whatever trust gap there may be, no one is foolish enough to presume that members of the African-American community are so unsophisticated as to think that this would accrue to their benefit, or that it would make them feel warm and cuddly about the police.

And so it is with communities in which immigrants, legal or illegal, live. They know full well that the best way to protect them in every sense is to be sure that police-ICE cooperative mechanisms are robust and result in plucking criminals from their midst, and the best way to do that is in the secure confines of a jail or booking station. Forcing ICE agents to wander the streets looking for the drug dealer, gang banger, or even the multiple drunk-driving offender who gets released from jail without notice (and by ignoring the filing of an ICE detainer) is a recipe for trouble that extends outward in many dimensions because it follows the rule of unintended consequences.

Now, back to the Boston matter: In that case, emails came to light in which a Boston police officer (who had previously been assigned to act as liaison to ICE before the city became sufficiently "woke") exchanged messages with a federal agent to alert him to the fact that an individual facing deportation was going to be imminently released from jail. The Globe has this to say:

Laura Rótolo, staff counsel and community advocate for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the e-mails show a "significant breach of the public trust." "BPD officials have repeatedly assured the public and the City Council that they are not interested in acting as ICE agents," she said. "Yet, for at least a decade, they have had an officer embedded with ICE, working hand-in-hand to deport Bostonians."

The individuals on whom ICE focuses are not "Bostonians"; they are aliens who have ended up in Boston. That's a chasm of a difference. Words matter, as advocates like Rótolo well know, which is why they are so fast and loose with blurring the lines when referring to alien criminals. These alien criminals are illegally in the United States; are often individuals arrested by police repeatedly, and repeatedly released back into those lucky "immigrant communities"; and a significant percentage of them have either been deported previously or are under final orders of removal that they have evaded. Is all of that not enough to justify a forthright policy of cooperation?

Instead, the police department is focusing on this officer's alleged violation of the city's lopsided, sloppily written, and inflamatory "Trust Act" to determine whether discipline should be undertaken. While they're pondering that, perhaps they and their lawyers (and, I sincerely hope, the officer's lawyers and the police union) will spend some time familiarizing themselves with the provisions of 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, and 8 U.S.C. Section 1644, the two relevant federal statutes that prohibit state or local governments from barring their agencies or employees from exchanging information with ICE.

One final thought: Where are the police unions in all of this? In the main, they seem strangely quiescent, which is a puzzle to me. This is doubly ironic in that one of the main unions representing state and local law enforcement, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), is also open to ICE agents and other federal officers. Many of my friends and former colleagues were, and quite possibly still are, FOP members.