Massachusetts Legislators Propose Strict Immigration Law

Two Massachusetts state senators, Republican Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Democrat Richard Moore of Uxbridge, recently unveiled a bill to make the Bay State’s immigration laws more stringent.

Under the proposed legislation, individuals who enter the civil or criminal justice system would have their citizenship status verified, and federal immigration authorities would potentially be alerted to illegal immigrants. The bill also increases penalties for false identification materials and heightens the requirements for obtaining a driver’s license. A 23-year-old Massachusetts man was recently killed by an illegal immigrant who was allegedly drunk driving, which led to calls for immigration reform.

The bill also proposes steps to ensure that only U.S. citizens or legal residents are granted taxpayer-funded benefits like subsidized housing, college grants and in-state tuition. Massachusetts’ neighboring state of Rhode Island recently granted in-state tuition benefits to certain illegal immigrant students; however, policies like this have drawn criticism from conservative groups, who have attacked Republican presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry of Texas for extending in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

Opponents of the bill argue it scapegoats illegal immigrants and will damage the relationship between immigrants and law enforcement, while advocates say it will improve public safety and curtail abuse of public resources by channeling taxpayer money back to legal residents.

Massachusetts’ immigrant households paid about $1.06 billion in local property taxes in 2007, according to an Immigrant Learning Center report.