Does Walsh think people forgot about his refugee comments?



These days, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is an outspoken champion of refugees and is advocating for the Commonwealth to become a sanctuary state. His past comments, however, suggest that such posturing is merely for show.

Walsh comes up for reelection soon, and he has recently been scoring political points by speaking out against the policies of President Donald Trump. Specifically, he railed against Trump’s travel ban and hard line immigration stance. If you look back a few months, however, Walsh sympathized with states deferring to candidate Trump’s “plan” to stop accepting Syrian refugees when asked during an interview beside Gov. Charlie Baker. “Ultimately, it’s a federal government decision,” Walsh told Janet Wu of WCVB. “We don’t have a say in the matter today.”

Walsh walked those comments back soon after they went viral, but apparently he believes the public has forgotten that he made them. He now claims, “For as long as I am mayor, I will never turn my back on those who are seeking a better life,” and says the city “will continue to foster trusting relationships between law enforcement and the immigrant community.”

About that “trusting relationship” between immigrants and Boston … In 2014, the Boston City Council passed the Trust Act, which was intended to stop the BPD from turning immigrants over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they are only facing civil infractions. But records show that the police did that anyway—nine times—in 2015. Authorities exploited a loophole in the Trust Act to circumvent the law so that they could deport select immigrants. The measure was passed to ensure that the Boston police would not turn over people who faced civil charges to ICE for deportation, but said loophole allowed cops to send people in their custody to ICE before they paid bail, which police argue the law failed to ban. In 2016 there were no records of direct transfers from the BPD to ICE, but the loophole has not been closed.

Meanwhile, while mainstream outlets surely know about the stances Walsh has taken in the past, as well as about the history of Boston and ICE, reporters seem more interested in flanking Walsh in his war against Trump than in questioning local authority.

Protecting immigrant communities may be the right thing to do, but there is a difference between saying the right thing and doing the right thing. That’s a difference that people considering reelecting Marty Walsh should keep in mind. As voters decide who the next mayor of Boston will be, they should ask, Will Walsh close the loophole?

This article was written in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

This article is published with permission from Maya Shaffer.