Lawrence Mayor Rivera will not veto immigration bill

By Keith Eddings, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Aug. 13– LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera said Wednesday he will not veto a bill the City Council approved this week to block local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities who are seeking illegal immigrants, unless they have criminal warrants for their arrests.

Rivera said he also will not sign the bill, meaning it will automatically become law 10 days after he receives it from the council.

Rivera opposed the bill because he said it would disarm the city’s police of a weapon — the threat to call the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcementagency — when they question suspects and investigate crimes.

At the same time, Rivera has used the debate over the immigration bill the council passed Tuesday to sharply criticize the federal government for failing to significantly reform immigration laws. He did that again Wednesday as he announced he will not veto the council’s so-called Trust Act, when he also called on ICE to stop pursuing and deporting immigrants whose worst crime is that they are here illegally.

“I start every conversation about immigration by saying the federal government has abdicated its role in providing clear, well-funded immigration policy,” Rivera said in a prepared statement. “This means if the federal government wants to chase innocent undocumented people (a policy I do not support), they better do it themselves.”

The statement addressed what became a central issue in the debate over providing any kind of protection or sanctuary to illegal immigrants. Critics said the bill would make the city a haven for criminals who believe they would be shielded from ICE if they come to Lawrence.

In fact, the bill will not end police cooperation with ICE when the agency shows up with a criminal warrant signed by a judge authorizing the arrest of an illegal immigrant who has committed a serious crime. But it would direct police to disregard so-called administrative warrants that are issued by ICE alone and not based on alleged criminal activity beyond a violation of immigration law. Police also would no longer seek to determine the immigration status of people who commit minor violations or crimes, such as a traffic violation or a non-violent domestic dispute.

“People who are undocumented and commit serious crimes do get reported to ICE and I want the message to be clear: If you commit a crime, regardless of your immigration status, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Rivera said Wednesday.

City Council President Modesto Maldonado and Councilor Kendrys Vasquez called their immigration bill the “Lawrence Trust Act” because it is intended to improve trust between police and illegal immigrants who may be afraid to report a crime out of fear that police will ask to see their immigration documents.

Rivera’s statement, which he titled “How we are building real trust in Lawrence,” said he is building trust in police in better ways, including by making it easier to file complaints against them, improving training on the use of force and stepping up community policing, where police regularly patrol local beats.

But he said vetoing the Trust bill would be pointless because it passed in a 7-2 vote, enough to override any veto.

Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said police already do not aid ICE in the pursuit of illegal immigrants whose worst crime is their immigration status.

“It doesn’t change policies or procedures in the department,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I believe it’s going to make our city better,” Maldonado said. “The police will continue doing their work just as they’re doing.”


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