Safe Communities Act

Immigration Enforcement Bill Draws Dueling Crowds at Mass. State House

The bill would bar police from acting as immigration law enforcers and bar police and court officials from inquiring about immigration status unless required

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The issue of immigration once again drew large crowds to the Massachusetts State House Friday.

At opposite ends of the fourth floor, supporters and opponents of the Safe Communities Act held dueling press conferences arguing for and against the bill, which would draw a clear line between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"You know we don't have to collaborate with the round-ups that are taking place that only at the border but here in Massachusetts," said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU Massachusetts chapter.

‪The bill would bar police from acting as immigration law enforcers and bar police and court officials from inquiring about immigration status unless it's required.

It would also create guidelines for local law enforcement officials on how to interact with ICE.

Supporters of the bill included faith leaders, immigrant advocates and lawmakers.

"In Suffolk County, and my community, which is over 50% foreign-born, we know that immigration is a matter of life and death," state representative Liz Miranda said.

A coalition of business leaders also supporting the bill include Meg Glazer who owns a construction company that works with immigrants.

"It's a vital part of our economy to foster good relationships with immigrant population and to not have them live in fear," Glazer said.

Tamaris Valesquez is the co-founder of Agencia Alpha, which is an immigration advocacy group. For her, the issue is personal. She was undocumented for 22 years in the United States.

"…being afraid that somehow people would let immigration know that I existed," Velasquez said.

Just down the hall, opponents at a duel press conference blasted the bill, saying it would make the state less safe.

"Sanctuary city laws put the citizens of Massachusetts at risk it puts their safety at risk. It puts their children at risk," said Lou Murray, an organizer for Boston's Against Sanctuary Cities.

"Immigration reform is critical and I'm just as frustrated as anyone else that Congress had not acted on it," Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson said.

The bill heads to a hearing with the Judiciary Committee which will decide whether or not to vote the bill out of committee Friday.

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