Detective Gregory Gallagher, a “task force officer” acting for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the Boston Police Department, has been discovered through emails between the two parties—even though Mayor Marty Walsh vehemently declared that his city’s police will not enforce federal laws about immigration.
Despite this claim, this “task force officer” was in contact with ICE. The two groups shared personal information and arrest records about people in question to see if they were of any mutual interest. In simpler terms, if they were of interest to ICE, Gallagher would take them in for even menial violations until ICE could pick them up.
Here’s the catch: Gallagher’s special operations may be against the law—Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruled five years ago that local law enforcement may not act on behalf of ICE with the Trust Act. So how was Gallagher still being wished “happy hunting” by the ICE detainer? Things like this can slip through the cracks, and Mayor Walsh certainly does not have enough time in his day to stand over Gallagher’s shoulder and make sure he isn’t doing, well, exactly what he ended up doing. Gallagher has since been removed from his role, but remains at a job in the department. How was he getting away with it, and how is he not facing more punishment?
While loopholes exist, and the bottom line is keeping the citizens of Boston safe, there cannot be exceptions to everything. Protecting Bostonians does not warrant the grey area being abused. While the Trust Act does not completely prohibit communication and work between ICE and police officers, there was already a strong scent of higher involvement. In 2017, a former construction worker sued his company after his boss reported him to ICE simply for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This suggests Gallagher isn’t the only TFO—and again, there was suspicion that BPD assisted ICE in the arrest. Mayor Walsh had two years to weed out the flaws within his police department, which he said respected inclusive and pro-immigrant values.
Even if Walsh had still been looking into it, the immigrants moving into the city and beginning their lives here had slightly more surveillance and less benefit of the doubt for minor mistakes or offenses. How are these people supposed to feel at home and begin a new life if they essentially cannot do anything wrong—or even worse, they are not accepted in their new community? To feel accepted, they must not only feel like, but also be, equally respected citizens. This TFO acting for ICE is getting in the way of that.
For immigrants to thrive, they should be given equal opportunities and trusted to be in America legally and with the right intentions. In this way, the highly-politicized topic of immigration policy is tainting the population’s view on those entering our country, even those who came through the correct and legal process.
Throughout America’s past, immigrants have overcome struggles both in arriving to the country and in facing scrutiny from those already here. Some immigrants may come here illegally, and even fewer could be involved in a serious crime. However, that stereotype of a small group of immigrants does not represent the masses. Immigrants, once in this country, should be held to the same standards as every other citizen. Even though ICE claims to be protecting citizens through the help of a TFO, the root of the problem is the assumption that ICE has to keep people safe from immigrants.