A FOX Undercover investigation that turned into a political hot potato for Gov. Deval Patrick has the administration giving its most detailed explanation yet about why it hasn't signed up for a federal program aimed at finding and deporting immigrants who commit serious crimes.
The program, called Secure Communities, shares the fingerprints of everyone arrested by local police with the US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement so ICE can know when immigrants, usually illegal ones, have been arrested.
ICE asked Gov. Patrick's administration in Sept. 2009 to sign an agreement and activate Secure Communities statewide, but so far the administration hasn't signed.
FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet asked the governor last week what his position was on Secure Communities:
One thing the governor did do is misspeak by calling the program a pilot. ICE tells FOX Undercover that the pilot program started with Boston police in 2006 but ended its pilot status in 2008 when Secure Communities became fully deployed in Boston.
" Boston says it's working, governor. Seems like you're trying to have it both ways," Beaudet said last week as Patrick walked away.
The administration appears to be trying to have it both ways by saying on the hand that it supports the deportation of immigrants who are serious criminals but hasn't signed onto the program, which is opposed by many in the immigrant community. Now, the administration is attempting to set the record straight.
John Grossman, an undersecretary in Gov. Patrick's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, agreed to an interview with FOX Undercover's Beaudet.
" Is the administration afraid to come out on this one way or another because of the politics involved in it?" Beaudet asked.
" I'm not a politician. I'm a career prosecutor who's now in a job in public safety," Grossman replied. " We're making a decision based on what's good for the Commonwealth and how to keep the Commonwealth safe."
And Grossman says the administration was unaware it was even holding up the program.
" ICE never came to us and said, 'Hey we want to deploy in Massachusetts and we're waiting on you,'" Grossman said.
The administration is now acknowledging it has concerns about the program targeting illegal immigrants who are not serious criminals.
" We've all read stories about people who may not fall into that category who've been swept up in immigration and we just want to make sure that our shared goals are accomplished here," Grossman said.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says he takes those concerns seriously, but the only people who have to worry are the criminals.
" It's been a great success in the four years that the program has been running. We've taken serious offenders off the street that we wouldn't have identified had it not been for Secure Communities," he told FOX 25 last week .
The administration now says that in the wake of our investigation it's talking with police departments across the state and with ICE to evaluate the program, and that it hopes to make a decision soon about whether to sign that agreement with the federal government.
Governor Patrick's Republican challenger, Charlie Baker, is already weighing in on this story. He issued a statement saying Gov. Patrick continues to stand in the way of giving local police a tool that could take dangerous criminals who are illegal immigrants off the streets.
His full statement is:
"G overnor Patrick has changed his story once again on illegal immigration and is standing in the way of giving local law enforcement additional tools to take dangerous criminals who are illegal immigrants off the streets," said Baker. "Massachusetts needs to be doing everything it can to enforce and strengthen our laws against illegal immigration, and the governor should stop turning a blind eye to the problem."