Immigrant group, DeLeo differ on his influence on bill

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STATE HOUSE — For more than five hours Thursday a small group of immigrant rights activists camped outside Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office, saying they wanted a meeting with the top House Democrat whose influence they believe is blocking a bill they support.

At an event at Suffolk University, DeLeo told the News Service that he could not say whether he opposes or backs the bill, which would prevent local police departments from arresting and detaining undocumented immigrants based solely on their immigration status.

Passage of the bill is important to immigrant communities, said Centro Presente executive Director Patricia Montes, who stationed herself outside the speaker’s office with another demonstrator shortly before 11:30 a.m. A handful of additional protesters joined them at points throughout the day, though the group cleared the hallway after 5 p.m.

“That bill is going to help us reduce the negative impact of detentions and deportations of people who do not have criminal convictions,” Montes said. “Most of the people that this administration have been detaining and deporting are people with no criminal convictions. That’s why we are fighting for that bill.”

Montes said her group believes DeLeo “used his influence to basically stop the bill.”

The House bill (H 1228), filed by Dorchester Democrat Rep. Evandro Carvalho, is before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The committee last month extended the time it has to consider the bill until May 2.

After speaking at a financial aid event at Suffolk Law School, DeLeo said he had been out of the State House for most of the day and that one of his staff members would meet with the group and hear their stance.

“The only thing I can say in fairness is that I have someone meeting with them right now who will verse me in terms of what was said and then thereafter once I get the number and whatnot, I’m going to get ahold of the chair, which I think is Judiciary, and see if he can fill me in on it as well,” DeLeo said.

Asked about Montes’ claim that he is blocking the bill, DeLeo said: “I think it’s in committee, so I don’t — I’d have to say this isn’t one I’m blocking.”

“I’m not saying I’m in favor or opposed,” he said. “I just can’t state at this time, that’s what sort of surprised me when I went back. Usually I can say, ‘Yeah, that’s a problem’ or ‘Yeah, that’s good,’ whatever, but this one I’m not sure of.”

— Written by Katie Lannan

Copyright State House News Service