SOMERVILLE, Mass. (WHDH) -
Somerville's mayor says he will sign an executive order that bars city police from detaining people simply because they are suspected of living in the U.S. illegally.
Mayor Joseph Curtatone says he plans on signing the order Thursday.
Curtatone says city police will only hold someone for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the agency has a criminal warrant or if there is a "legitimate law enforcement purpose" beyond immigration status.
Curtatone says it's the "morally responsible" thing to do and will strengthen families.
The mayor says the federal Secure Communities program has been a failure because more than half of those people deported from Massachusetts in the past two years had no criminal convictions, tearing their families apart and discouraging cooperation with police and the reporting of crimes.
"One case of an undocumented person being taken away sends an incredible negative ripple effect throughout the community and has negative impacts on our ability to protect our neighborhoods," Curatone said.
The mayor took a lot of heated questions about the recent conviction of illegal immigrant Nicolas Dutan Guaman who was sentenced to more than 10 years in jail for the running over and killing of 23-year-old Milford motorcyclist Matthew Denice.
"Tragic event. It was a crime. The person had been punished...I do not know what they are going through but I will say on behalf of the city that we are very sorry for what happened to him. The person charged was sentenced and justice has been served for that violator," Curatone said. The police chief said that there has been less than a dozen cases in the last couple of years where people were hold only for being undocumented or illegal aliens.