Boston Police Confirm Officer's Involvement In ICE Arrest. ACLU Wants More Info

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Jose Martin Paz Flores speaks to WBUR in 2017 about the events leading up to his arrest by federal immigration agents with his wife Rosa Benitez. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Jose Martin Paz Flores speaks to WBUR in 2017 about the events leading up to his arrest by federal immigration agents with his wife Rosa Benitez. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The ACLU of Massachusetts is calling on the Boston police to provide more information about a so-called "joint task force" between the department and federal immigration officials. A U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit filed last week in Boston's federal court sparked questions about the existence of such a task force.

The suit alleges Boston-based Tara Construction retaliated against an employee who is not a legal resident of the United States. Jose Martin Paz Flores was arrested by federal immigration officials in 2017 after leaving a workers' compensation meeting with his boss. Federal labor officials say Boston police Sergeant Detective Gregory Gallagher worked with federal immigration officials to arrest Paz and was present at his arrest.

Carol Rose, who heads up the ACLU of Massachusetts, says she's concerned about the task force mentioned in the lawsuit and is asking the city of Boston and Boston police for transparency.

"And that includes taking a hard look at the kind of information sharing that exists between the Boston Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, or ICE," she says.

Rose wants to know exactly what data Boston police share with ICE and other federal authorities.

"The existence of a BPD/ICE task force highlights the distance we still need to travel before we can truly say our City is doing all it can to protect and defend our immigrant neighbors, coworkers, and friends," she says.

Boston police Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a spokesman for the force, says Gallagher is the only officer assigned as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE. He says it's a partnership that's existed for more than 10 years.

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"Basically, [Gallagher] is a liaison to this unit, which is not uncommon. We have it through all other federal agencies," says Boyle, "and whenever [DHS/ICE] have involvement in the city of Boston with certain incidents, [Gallagher] gets involved and assists."

According to the lawsuit, Pedro Pirez, who runs Tara Construction, allegedly initiated the law enforcement investigation of Paz in 2017 by contacting Boston police Detective Juan Seoane shortly after Paz reported his injury. Tara Construction did not have workers' compensation insurance at the time that Paz fell off a ladder at work. The company did not return requests for comment before publication.

Pirez has told federal labor officials that he asked Seoane to look into Paz's identity and provided the detective with identifying information for Paz. According to the complaint, Pirez also told Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators he was confused by Paz's multiple middle and last names, which is why he reached out to Seoane. The lawsuit says Seoane ultimately contacted Detective Gallagher, the ICE liaison.

In an interview, BPD spokesman Boyle confirms Seoane was contacted by Pirez. Boyle says Seoane received information from Pirez that Paz was involved in suspected criminal activity. Gallagher, Boyle said, then became involved in the matter when it was determined Paz had deportation orders.

In a statement, Mayor Marty Walsh said:

Boston is a city that values and respects immigrants, and we will continue standing by our immigrant community who make positive contributions to our city each and every day. A safe city is our first priority, which is why BPD will work with any state or federal authorities if criminal activity is in question for any resident in Boston.

Attorneys for Paz say he was never charged with a crime in this matter. He's currently working elsewhere with authorization and pursuing legal status.

This segment aired on March 7, 2019.


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Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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