|Matthew Denice [photo: Boston.com]|
Police say Nicolas Guaman, 34, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador who had his 4-year-old with him in the truck, was drunk when he ran a stop sign and hit Denice’s motorcycle. They say Guaman continued slowly weaving his way around the corner of Congress and Fayette, then onto West Street, and later Bancroft Avenue.In a bit of tragic irony, just over a month ago Governor Patrick sat in a park in Milford just a stone's throw from the site of Denice's killing and explained his recent decision to bar Massachusetts from participating in the federal Secure Communities program, which in a nutshell would allow local law enforcement to share arrest data - fingerprints, primarily - with federal immigration authorities (more on the program here). The Milford Patch has video posted here (can't seem to embed, but you should click through and watch it). The gravamen of the Governor's response to aggressive questioning by a Secure Communities advocate is the observation that law enforcement already shares arrest data with the FBI. Secure Communities, the Governor suggests, is mere window dressing - a redundant program that would provide only "the impression that we are doing something else."
Of course there is more to it than that. If it were true that in fact Secure Communities represents nothing more than a bit of bureaucratic redundancy, one presumes that the Governor could find better uses for his political capital than opposition to the program. For one thing, Secure Communities make information sharing routine and automatic, when it is currently sporadic and largely discretionary. For another, the sharing in question would be with ICE, the federal agency specifically tasked with immigration enforcement, rather than with the FBI, which has one or two other things on its jurisdictional plate.
Milford is one of a handful of communities in the Commonwealth where the debate over illegal immigration is more than academic - it is the stuff of every day life in a town with a huge and growing illegal population. Now it is even more so. That is why when the Governor made his announcement last month, local officials were quick to condemn the move. Again from the Patch:
Several local leaders said they are disappointed in the recent decision by Gov. Deval Patrick to reject state participation in the federal Secure Communities program, which allows federal authorities to check the immigration status of anyone arrested in Massachusetts.By the way, according to ICE, the Secure Communities Program is up and running in more than 1500 jurisdictions nationwide, and has resulted in deportation of nearly 87,000 convicted criminals.
Both Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin and state Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford) defended the program, which is used in the city of Boston, and which would have allowed arrests in other communities to be checked against immigration records.
"It takes an important tool away from police officers, who are trying to perform a difficult job," O'Loughlin said. "The tool is information."
Fernandes said the governor's decision sends the wrong message. "We need to make it clear to (people) who are here improperly, and those who are engaged in employing them, that we need to take this issue seriously."
Illegal immigration has had an impact on housing, the court system, employment and other areas, Fernandes said. Other areas of the state may not be as affected.
"We happen to live in a community that is severely impacted," he said. "It may not be a problem in Lexington, but it is a problem in Milford.
We don't know yet if Matthew Denice's killer, Nicolas Guaman, has a prior record. If it turns out that he does this thing is really going to blow up. An already heated political debate will get hotter. Secure Communities advocates will blame opponents for the young man's death. Opponents will in turn accuse advocates of politicizing tragedy. Sadly, I think all of that might already be inevitable.
Stepping back, I am left with the same question I have always had about Secure Communities. At base, all the program does is allow local law enforcement to share fingerprint data with ICE. That's it.
For the life of me, I just do not understand the objections to that.
UPDATE: It seems Matthew Denice had quite a remarkable family. And MORE: the driver did have a record.