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Governor Patrick walks the walk on community policing and immigration

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty  June 4, 2011 09:51 AM

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This blog was written by Carol Rose and ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Laura Rótolo.

Last year, the Patrick administration surprised everyone by announcing that it would sign on to the controversial “Secure Communities” or S-Comm program that tries to force local police to do the bidding of federal immigration agents by requiring them to feed information through a shared database and fuel an indiscriminate deportation mill.

Who knows what kind of pressure federal officials put on the Commonwealth in an effort to force a sign-on--presumably some combination of money and political quid pro quo.

What we do know is that today the governor showed the courage of his convictions by standing up to the federal government and saying that Massachusetts won’t join a program that undermines community safety and violates basic human rights.

It takes a special kind of courage to say no in the face of both a powerful federal government and widespread prejudice against immigrants. In doing the right thing, Governor Patrick showed the compassion, conviction, and common sense approach that got him elected in the first place. Like so many of his supporters and constituents, Gov. Patrick realizes that S-Comm simply has no place in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state. In standing up against S-Comm, we are not saying that there should be no enforcement of immigration laws. But the current immigration system is broken on many levels, and S-Comm just adds to this massively failed enterprise.

The program was touted as a way to reduce crime by deporting violent criminals, but it had the exact opposite effect. In Boston, where it has been a pilot program, S-Comm ended up deporting mostly undocumented immigrants with no criminal convictions.

Wherever it has been adopted, S-Comm has made crime-fighting more difficult. The mere suggestion that a local arrest can lead to deportation drives people underground, undermining community policing efforts and making us all less safe. That’s why police chiefs and victims’ rights groups have been speaking out against S-Comm. They know that when large segments of our community stop trusting our local police, we all lose.

Already, police chiefs in Cambridge and Chelsea have said they wanted no part in the program, and the governors of Illinois and New York initially joined and later pulled out of S-Comm when they realized the harm it caused the people of their states (only to be told by the feds that there is no way to leave the program once a state joins it.)

When Patrick was elected for a second term, he said to the immigrant community in Massachusetts, “I want you to know that you are welcome here in this Commonwealth. This is your Commonwealth. This is your home.”

Today, Patrick showed that he doesn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk, and that has made us all safer and better off.

So thank you, Governor Patrick, for having the audacity to listen to the people of Massachusetts and to do what it takes to keep our communities both safe and free.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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