Immigration advocates flood State House for ‘sanctuary state’ hearing

The doors of the State House Hearing room were open and overflowing with dedicated members of the community, coming together to show their support and share their opinions at the Safe Communities Act Hearing held by the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on June 9.

The hearing was a vital point for the Act. Although this is not the first time it has been proposed, Governor Baker has already expressed intention of choosing to veto the Act if it does indeed make it far enough.

“I also want to emphasize… that this is real in Massachusetts. Deportations are happening in Massachusetts. It is not just other parts of the country. Americans are being profiled in Massachusetts,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge.

He believes that each local community should take control of the situation, rather than the state as a whole. If it were to be passed, Massachusetts would become the country’s first ever Sanctuary State. This would limit collaboration between ICE and local police, ensure due process rights for detainees, and would bar the use of any state or local data in a Muslim registry.

The amount of helpful support that immigrant families need fluctuates, and there are many cities and towns that lack advocacy. Those most afraid or unable to ask for help are often those who need it most. Legislators are now battling with the risks of threats such as President Trump’s executive order to defund sanctuary cities, or stretching their resources to accommodate ICE programs. 94 Massachusetts districts voted for Trump, which also sets stakes high in the State House.

“Since the implementation of Trump’s aggressive immigration agenda, arrests of non-criminal immigrants, people who have never had an encounter with law enforcement in New England, has tripled, disproving any claim that the administration is only going after only criminal immigrants,” said State Representative Juana Matias.

It cannot be guaranteed that the Safe Communities Act will be passed, but local support has been powerful, especially in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. The small town of Pelham in Central Massachusetts is also advocating for the encouragement of the statewide bill, rather than the town becoming a sanctuary city. Advocacy has been strong, and organizations and local lawmakers are hosting events to get the attention of the State House. The Cambridge City Council recently passed a policy order stating that the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act be passed quickly, to best benefit all Massachusetts residents.

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