Massachusetts Residents Rally for Immigrant Measure

In a proposed amendment to the state budget, a Massachusetts lawmaker finds faith-based and progressive support in seeking to extend a number of protections to immigrants. But even with the show of support, no prospects exist around the adoption of the Safe Communities Amendment.

The amendment, proposed by Democratic Sen. Jamie Eldridge, passed the senate side of the legislature, but House leadership left it out of the proposed budget voted on by members. What’s more, Gov. Charlie Baker stated his plan to veto the amendment if it ever came to his desk.

Eldridge calls his proposal a set of “common sense measures,” according to a Boston Globe report, and contains 4 central planks:

  • Bar local police from immigration status inquiries during routine stops or arrests
  • Inform immigrants in police custody of their rights in a language they understand
  • Prevent the use of state resources in the creation of or contribution to a registry based on such characteristics as religion or nationality
  • Prevent local law enforcement from entering immigration agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

“It has become extremely obvious what the Trump Administration’s xenophobic rhetoric means,” Eldridge says. “We have an opportunity in Massachusetts to push back against this, and we are asking that people who are detained are given basic due process rights.”

For Laura Wagner, executive director of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network, passage of the amendment “will protect the right that people already have.” Wagner organized a rally at the state house to show representatives public support around the amendment. “We are not talking about people convicted of violent crimes here. We are talking about families who want to stay together.”

But for the governor and others opposed to the budget amendment, the guidelines lack “clear guidelines for state and local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials to detain violent and dangerous criminals convicted of heinous crimes like rape and murder,” say Gov. Baker’s press secretary, Brendan Moss.

Gov. Baker put forth his own bill that permits the detention by local law enforcement of certain undocumented immigrants at the request of federal officials. The governor proposed this bill in response to a ruling from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court that local police currently hold no authority to hold an immigrant for federal law enforcement officials. The proposal is under review with the Judiciary Committee.