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Boston has joined a growing number of cities that will no longer hold immigrants suspected of being in the United States illegally for possible deportation, unless an arrest warrant has been issued.
The Boston City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed the so-called Boston Trust Act, which supporters have said will improve relations between local law enforcement and immigrants wary of reporting crimes for fear of deportation.
"The Trust Act will not only help protect immigrants, but all residents of the city of Boston," said City Councilor Josh Zakim, who proposed the measure. "By breaking down barriers to cooperation and allowing police to allocate their limited resources more productively, we will be able to enhance the efficacy of our local law enforcement and maintain the fabric of communities across the city."
Patricia Montes, executive director of the immigrant rights group Centro Presente, said the federal Secure Communities program is not meeting its goal of deporting only criminals.
"I am an immigrant," she told WBUR, "and I don't want to live with criminals in my neighborhood. We are not defending criminals. We are defending, workers, mothers, people who come to the us because they are looking for better opportunities."
Mayor Martin Walsh supports the measure and will sign it. Spokeswoman Kate Norton said the ordinance maintains "public safety, family unity and due process in our city."
Not everyone backs the legislation.
The move will hinder coordination between local and federal authorities at a time when such collaboration is essential in identifying terrorist threats, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom