In April, when Boston Police Commissioner William Gross appeared before the City Council to defend his department’s cooperation with federal immigration officials, he said news reports put BPD in a bad light.
“We did our job,” Gross said. “We did nothing wrong.”
But after police released 800 pages of emails between Boston Police Sgt. Detective Gregory Gallagher, an officer who serves as the department’s liaison with ICE, and ICE agents, councilors are questioning whether the department violated the city’s Trust Act, which bars BPD officers from holding people in their custody or turning them over to ICE agents based solely on their immigration status.
The details of those emails, outlined by WBUR reporters, suggest Gallagher had extensive communication with ICE agents, at one point forwarding them an incident report containing the address and names of the parents of a woman who was accused of shoplifting and suspected of overstaying her visa.
“That’s ICE using BPD as part of their agency,” said District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards. “That’s exactly what the Trust Act was trying to stop.”
In the April 9 hearing, Gross was adamant that police are not sharing information with ICE.
“In the Boston Police Department, we are not the agents of ICE,” he told councilors. “Our databases are our databases.”
The Banner first reported on the ICE Task Force in December last year after a defense attorney said his client was wrongfully charged with operating a motor vehicle after revocation of a driver’s license and forgery of a registry document after BPD officers claimed his valid Florida driver’s license was forged.
As Defense Attorney Zachary Cloud was approaching the Dorchester District Courthouse with documents in hand to prove his client’s Florida license was valid, he saw the man being whisked into a black van by ICE agents. Curious as to how his client ended up in ICE custody, Cloud checked the incident report. At the bottom, he found the sentence, “Sgt. Det. Gallagher from the ICE Task force was notified.”
The city council passed the Trust Act in 2014 in response to immigration officials’ widespread use of detention orders, which requested that Boston Police officers detain people suspected of violating federal immigration laws.
Under the Trump administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement regime, ICE officials have stepped up forced removal of nonviolent offenders, including of people who appear in court, whether as defendants in criminal and civil cases, or even as witnesses.
Gallagher’s willingness to give up the address of the woman accused of shoplifting and the addresses of her parents suggests the police department may be more aligned with the Trump administration’s approach to immigration enforcement than the approach outlined in the Trust Act.
Mayor Martin Walsh said Gallagher was reassigned from the ICE Task force while an investigation is conducted into his communications with federal immigration officials and whether they violated the Trust Act.
“I’m a pro-immigrant mayor,” Walsh told reporters Saturday. “We’re a pro-immigrant city. I strongly believe that is someone is committing a felony, we should take all the appropriate precautions to make sure that people are safe, but in this particular case there are just too many questions.”
Edwards said the City Council should review the Trust Act to ensure its provisions will truly prevent police from acting as ICE agents. Police officials seeking to convey information to ICE should first clear that information with the City Council, she said.
“Right now they’re issuing regular reports where they specifically note there was no direct delivery of a person to ICE,” she said. “If you delivered an address to ICE, it’s the same as delivering a person to ICE.”