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Mayor Walsh Vows To Keep Boston A Safe Place For Immigrants Following Trump's Orders04:42

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Surrounded by members of his administration and state lawmakers, Mayor Marty Walsh speaks about President Trump's immigration executive orders. (Courtesy of Isabel Leon/Mayor's Office)closemore
Surrounded by members of his administration and state lawmakers, Mayor Marty Walsh speaks about President Trump's immigration executive orders. (Courtesy of Isabel Leon/Mayor's Office)

As President Trump launches the crackdown he promised on immigrants living in this country illegally, some mayors in Massachusetts are promising to stand up to the president.

Many immigrants and refugees in the state and across the country have been on edge for some time now, anxious about seemingly offhand remarks made by once-candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

Bans on Muslim refugees; mass deportations and raids; and a massive wall along the country's southern border. These were all, at one time, classified as "campaign rhetoric."

But as President Trump settles into office, the reality of these new policies is becoming clearer for immigrants who are not in the country legally.

"We are going to get the bad ones out," Trump said during an announcement Wednesday at the Department of Homeland Security. "The criminals and the drug deals, and gangs and gang members and cartel leaders. The day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc."

With two separate executive orders, Trump put some teeth behind his campaign promises.

One executive order calls for an increase in Border Patrol agents and expansion of detention space at the border, among other steps designed to beef up prosecutions of criminal immigrants.

With the second executive order, Trump follows through with his pledge to strip federal funding from communities that are so-called "sanctuaries" for immigrants in the country illegally. That would include Boston, where local police do not detain or question anyone based solely on their immigration status.

City Hall Will Be 'A Safe Space'

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took a swift and firm stand in response to Trump's order.

With a visibly diverse group of city employees and local elected officials huddled around him, Walsh said the city has been, and always will be, a safe place for immigrants, no matter their status.

"Boston was here for me and my family. And for as long as I am mayor, I will never turn my back on those who are seeking a better life," he said. "We will continue to foster trusting relationships between law enforcement and the immigrant community. And we will not waste vital police resources on misguided federal actions."

Walsh said he's not intimidated by Trump's fiscal threats — even though the city has approximately a half-billion dollars in federal revenue at stake, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office said.

In fact, Walsh went so far as to open the doors to City Hall itself for anyone fearing deportation.

"That means if people want to live here, they'll live here," he said. "They can use my office. They can use any office in this building. Any place they want to use, they'll be able to use this building as a safe space."

Other Mass. Leaders 'Make A Stand'

There are several communities in the state that consider themselves "sanctuary cities," including Somerville, where Mayor Joseph Curtatone also rebuked Trump's threat to pull federal funding.

"The impact to our national economy will be devastating," said Curtatone, referring to the federal funding at risk in sanctuary cities across the country. "If cities have to make a stand for basic human decency, let me be clear, then we’re going to make that stand," he said.

Curtatone said the city is ready to tighten its belt, but not ready to compromise its principles.

"... if people want to live here, they'll live here. They can use my office. They can use any office in this building. Any place they want to use, they'll be able to use this building as a safe space."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Just how much leverage city leaders will have in this head-to-head fight with the Trump administration remains unclear, but some supporters of Trump's executive orders say he's well within his bounds.

Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors limits on immigration, told PBS Newshour that these are smart policies.

"These orders focus very clearly on deterring illegal immigration, dealing very quickly with people who cross the border illegally and enforcing the law in the interior of the country with criminal aliens being the top priority," said Vaughan. "So, that's appropriate, that's smart enforcement, that's what's been missing for the last eight years."

But for the immigrants affected by these new orders, the fear is at an all time high.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said her group is trying to educate immigrants about their rights while also crafting strategies to protect them.

"So it feels like, you know, an open season of attacks against refugees and immigrants and American families," she said. "It feels like the president is beginning the planned assault on the freedoms of immigrants and refugees."

Millona said her group is working with the state attorney general's office and other local officials to explore potential legal action in response to Trump's executive orders.

In a statement, Gov. Charlie Baker's office said sanctuary city status should be decided on a local level, but the governor opposes making Massachusetts a "sanctuary state."

This segment aired on January 26, 2017.

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Shannon Dooling Reporter
Shannon Dooling is a reporter representing WBUR on a team of public radio station journalists in the New England News Collaborative.

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