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In post-9/11 era, Menino pushed back against federal security officials

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  March 28, 2013 01:55 PM

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Though many aspects of Mayor Tom Menino’s tenure will be evaluated and reevaluated, one that doesn’t get much attention is how often Menino has taken on the federal government’s security apparatus — no matter which political party is in charge — when he thinks its actions aren’t good for Boston.

Menino hates the liquefied natural gas tankers that come into Boston Harbor, believing them to be a potential risk to the city. It was bad enough when the ships were coming in from Trinidad; when I was in federal government and involved with the decision to allow a ship to come from Yemen periodically, Menino made it publicly clear he had a lot of questions. Allowing the Yemeni tanker was a change that Menino demanded we make only with utmost care (including assessments of the facility in Yemen) and with a lot of security. And, of course, the feds would pay for both.

On immigration, Menino has pushed back at both the Bush and Obama administrations. He famously gave Bush’s former immigration director a public scolding for her approval of a massive immigration raid in New Bedford in 2007.

Later, under Obama, Menino became one of the most vocal local opponents of Secure Communities, an effort by the Department of Homeland Security to utilize local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of those detained or booked. It has been a controversial program, and Menino always felt that any good from it (for example, being able to deport serious criminal offenders) was far outweighed by the harm it might do to local policing efforts and the outreach to new Bostonians. He's periodically deployed police chief Edward F. Davis to Washington to make the case that the program was hindering police by alienating the immigrant community.

Menino has viewed the safety and security of his city less through the lens of homeland security and more as hometown security. He simply never cared when federal security officials showed up, wrapped in the mantra of 9/11, to claim dominance. For him, the safety of the city has been personal.

Juliette Kayyem served as assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, and was Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s homeland security advisor.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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