Massachusetts Governor Celebrates Sanctuary State Defeat; Immigration Advocate Warns 'Election Is Coming'

Gov. Charlie Baker thanks staff after signing the fiscal year 2019 budget at the Statehouse in Boston on July 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Even though a Statista survey shows it’s one of the most liberal states in America, cops will continue to help ICE agents capture illegal immigrants in Massachusetts – moving the issue to the forefront of the 2018 election debates.

Massachusetts House and Senate budget negotiators failed to reach a compromise on a Senate-passed budget amendment that was intended to stop local police in the commonwealth from cooperating with federal ICE agents. Local cops would also have been prevented from asking people on the street about whether they were U.S. citizens.

The House approved similar, but stricter, legislation known as the Safe Communities Act, which Gov. Charle Baker (R) had threatened to veto. Along with blocking state and local police from working with ICE or arresting illegal immigrants, the Safe Communities Act guaranteed illegal immigrants the same constitutional rights and due process afforded U.S. citizens.

The ACLU and those who advocate citizenship rights for those who cross the border illegally are outraged and promise to take the fight to the next legislative session. Close to 200 people rallied outside House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office to voice, as loudly as possible, their displeasure with legislative inaction.

“We are also part of this state. We’re also trying to mobilize immigrant communities that are now U.S. citizens,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente.

The state House failed to reach consensus on Senate-approved legislation July 20 that would have provided some protections to non-citizens living in the U.S. illegally.

“These are basic, due process civil rights protections… and the fact that at a time when families have been separated at the border, at a time when families are being separated in Massachusetts, that we couldn’t do the bare minimum for immigrant families across Massachusetts, is deeply, deeply disappointing,” said state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who sponsored the amendment.

But House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D) doesn’t think the lack of Senate-approved immigration changes would hurt illegal aliens.

“I think we will have those protections. I do not see any danger to folks here in Massachusetts,” he said to reporters.

DeLeo stressed local officials could always do what the legislature was unable to accomplish. He said there is nothing in Massachusetts law that would prevent the people running the state’s cities, towns and villages from deciding how their police officers should work with ICE agents.

“Where consensus eluded us was to force municipalities into a statewide policy. Different communities have different approaches,” DeLeo said.

But DeLeo’s assurance wasn’t good enough for the ACLU of Massachusetts and progressive politicians like Sen. James B. Eldridge.

“It’s a shameful day for the Commonwealth,” said Eldridge. “I think we’re going to look back at this time and, as elected officials, realize that we could have taken action and we didn’t, even in liberal Massachusetts.”

State Rep. Denise Provost (D) told her Twitter followers she was “heartbroken and stunned the MA House would not offer minimal protections to those targeted by the Trump administration.”

Another Democrat, Rep. Mike Connelly, described himself as “disgusted and disappointed” at the failure of the amendment and said, “History will judge the House for being complicit in Trump’s racist deportation machine.”

However, Gov. Baker celebrated the amendment’s defeat. He said the proposal to turn Massachusetts into a sanctuary state that did not cooperate with ICE would not “enhance the quality of public safety in the commonwealth.”

“We’ve made a series of proposals to the Legislature that built off the Obama administration policies with respect to public safety that we would prefer to see the Legislature adopt but we do not believe making Massachusetts a sanctuary state was a good idea,” Baker also said to reporters.

The Boston Globe reported that Carol Rose, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the decision “enshrines the politics of fear and silences the politics of hope and compassion.”

Eva Millona, who leads the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, proclaimed the budget — without sanctuary state protection — to be a victory for Gov. Baker and a crushing defeat for illegal immigrants who “will suffer and will continue to live in fear and not report crimes.”

“It is a big win for the governor. He put a lot of political pressure, and he had said that he would veto everything,” Millona told WBUR.

Patricia Montes said it was time for groups like hers to change their tactics. Lobbying the State House, even inundating lawmakers with emails and phone calls, wasn’t good enough. Also lacking was support from politicians who claimed to support the cause.

“[Democrats] are telling us that if we support this specific political party, things are going to change. I don’t see any changes,” Montes said, adding what sounded like a threat aimed at House and Senate Democrats.

Montes warned, “The elections are coming.”