Opponents Concerned Senate's Budget Plan Would Make Massachusetts a ‘Sanctuary State'

A controversial amendment to the budget plan passed by the Senate Friday has some opponents accusing Democratic lawmakers of trying to turn Massachusetts into a "sanctuary state."

"The Democratic amendment is a product of a dysfunctional Massachusetts Senate," said Louis Murray, one of the founders of Bostonians Against Sanctuary Cities. "This amendment will harm the police, will harm the citizens."

Those in favor of the amendment say it would generally prevent state and local police from asking about a person's immigration status, and would restrict collaboration between state or local police and federal immigration officials.

"All of the parties got together and took the portions of the Safe Communities Act that everybody agreed with and put it into the budget with really basic protections for immigrants," argued immigration attorney Susan Church. "It doesn't make us a sanctuary city. It doesn't prevent law enforcement from talking to ICE if they have concerns about a person."

But this is far from a done deal.

The measure would still have to pass the House and be signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.

"It's not a budget item. It really shouldn't have been passed in the Senate budget, but because it has, now it comes to the House," said Rep. Geoff Diehl. "I'm hoping it has no chance of passing. I know the governor's indicated he's not going to adopt it."

But the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, known as MIRA, says the governor is misunderstanding what the amendment actually does.

"He's saying that it would have forbidden communication between local law enforcement and ICE, and that's just simply not part of the amendment at all," said Marion Davis, director of communications at MIRA Coalition.

A committee will now try to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget, which takes effect July 1.

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