By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)
I’m the first generation son of immigrants. My parents came to the United States from Gaeta, just north of Naples, Italy. My older sister Maria taught me English in our Italian-speaking home. My parents were among the immigrants who have made Somerville the vibrant and booming community it is today. From the Italians, Irish and Greeks who came to our city in the early part of the 20th century, to the Portuguese, Brazilians, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Haitians, Nepalis and many others who have arrived since, these people chose Somerville. They are what makes Somerville stand out. It’s our diversity. It’s the people you see every day that enrich your life, who introduce you to foods you’ve never tried, songs you never knew, and wisdom you’ve never heard. That’s what defines a neighborhood. It’s not geographic borders, it’s the people there. These people make Somerville what it is: a home.
I support the TRUST Act because my home is threatened. It’s threatened by a punitive federal program called “Secure Communities” that requires police departments to detain immigrants who have not been convicted of a crime including those that the courts have ordered be released. It’s a program that is not based on facts, but on indiscriminately treating every person the same regardless of their history, save for one factor: their status in a broken system, a system that everyone knows is broken and is crying out for reform. Until the day when our representatives in Washington can put aside unyielding ideology, assumptions and speculation, and create the reform that’s better for families, better for workers and better for our economy, we must protect the members of our community threatened by this broken system. I support the TRUST Act on Beacon Hill and ask my fellow members of the Metro Mayors Coalition to join me.
More than 50 percent of residents deported due to the Secure Communities program are people with no criminal convictions whatsoever. In some towns, it’s up to 79 percent of residents deported. This program is leaving children parentless. Those who support Secure Communities always cite public safety as their number one concern. If they’re concerned about public safety, why break up families? Why take away the first line of defense against a young person walking down the wrong path and making bad decisions?
In Somerville, we take a holistic approach to every issue. Education, public safety, families—these are not separate systems. If we’re serious about reducing crime, we don’t simply put more officers on the street. We go to the root of the problem. We support strong family units. We support strong education. That’s how we make our community safe, not by tearing families apart. The TRUST Act will keep families together, strengthening the bonds of our community and addressing problems of education and public safety in a smart, holistic way.
The TRUST Act will not shackle public safety officials who do care about our community’s safety. It will only provide that individuals ordered released by Massachusetts judges and magistrates will not be detained for ICE in spite of the court’s release order. Those with criminal records will still go to ICE, and those without criminal records will not. That’s public safety. And that’s common sense.
Roughly 63 percent of the undocumented population living in the U.S. has been here for more than 10 years. In many cases, these are people who tried to play by the rules, only to find that there was no line to get into to become a citizen. And when those residents no longer have to fear being deported simply for doing the right thing and reporting a crime to the authorities, that’s also better for public safety.
But that’s the threat they live under today. Cooperation between residents and our public safety officials is essential to keeping our neighborhoods and families safe. It’s essential to getting the real criminals off the street. Secure Communities leaves us anything but secure. It forces those residents who fear they will be torn away from their families and ripped from their homes to not cooperate with public safety officials. In the end, we are all less safe. We are less secure.
Meanwhile, as cities and towns have to deliver daily services to our residents, we face rising fixed costs, dwindling financial support from a state government dealing with suppressed revenues, and a federal government filled with representatives whose sole focus seems to be “what can we cut next?” But even with less support, they want to point to us and say, “Well, we don’t have the resources to do this. So now it’s your job.” As if we have an abundance of resources. As if we do not know how to manage our own cities and towns, what truly requires our attention and time to build safe, strong communities.
The TRUST Act will codify a clear message: That we know what’s best for our communities. We know what demands our attention: That not only is immigration enforcement not our job, but under the broken system today, it weakens and undermines the communities we’ve worked so hard to build. The TRUST Act is pro-family values. It’s pro-public safety. It’s the best way to keep our communities safe and support the fabric of our communities that make them the beautiful, cherished neighborhoods that they are today.