BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A public hearing was held on Beacon Hill Friday regarding a bill that aims to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts.
If passed, the ‘Safe Communities Act’ would make Massachusetts a "sanctuary state." Under the act, filed as S.1401 in the Senate and H.3573 in the House, state and local law enforcement and court officials would not be allowed to ask a person's immigration status, or inform federal immigration authorities about a detainee's impending release. The bill would also end the practice of local jails and prisons being used to house detainees on behalf of federal immigration authorities.
(State Rep. Tram T. Nguyen/Twitter)
Advocates of the legislation say it will protect immigrants’ basic rights when in police custody.
Amy Grunder, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocate Coalition (MIRA), said the bills would help build trust between law enforcement and the undocumented community.
“When immigrants see police in courts involved in deportations, they stop reporting crimes," Grunder said. "They don’t seek help in an emergency. They may not even go to the hospital because they’re afraid that somehow they or a family member will be reported to ICE and deported."
Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the state shouldn't become a tool of the Trump administration's heavy-handed crackdown on immigrants whose only crime is how they came here.
"Standing up for the rights of immigrants is a moral imperative," she said. "It’s clear: immigration is the defining moral issue of the Trump presidency and of this period of time in history for all of us."
Other Massachusetts leaders have weighted in in support of the act. Among them was newly-elected Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, who called for a public hearing on the creation of sanctuary spaces as her first act on the council—and who has dealt this week with a threatening voicemail that attacked her and her family for being immigrants themselves.
Opponents of the bills say it will only turn the Commonwealth into a sanctuary for those who break the law.
Don Rosenburg’s son was killed by an undocumented immigrant.
“It strictly protects illegal aliens who have committed additional crimes, period," he said of the act. "And they commit those crimes more often than not against other immigrants and other illegal aliens."
Maureen Maloney also said she lost a son to an undocumented immigrant.
“It’s only designed to protect the criminal illegal alien, a convicted criminal illegal alien," she said. "It does nothing to protect the citizens."
WBZ NewsRadio's Mike Macklin reports