Governor Baker Won’t Rule Out Support For Statewide ‘Sanctuary City’ Proposal

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BOSTON — Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on Monday signaled he may eventually support a controversial legislative measure that would bar local police departments from complying with federal detainer requests related to illegal aliens.

“I’ve said many times that I think that decision should be made at the local level,” Baker told reporters at a press conference he held immediately after signing an executive order to create a new Latino Advisory Commission. “But I’m an open-minded guy, I’ve been know to change my mind about things before.”

Yet while Baker has frequently deferred to local municipalities when it comes to so-called “sanctuary city” measures, on Monday he repeatedly harped on the importance of following federal rules when it comes to issues involving a proposed natural gas compressor station that would be built in Weymouth.

“The state does have a role to play although we play it under federal rules,” Baker told reporters. “Our goal here is to set the highest standard we possibly can with respect to public safety and the environment, but we are going to be complying with federal law as we do that.”

The project, which is being spearheaded by Houston-based Spectra Energy, has drawn opposition from locals concerned with safety issues and activists rallying against fossil fuels. Baker repeatedly cited the need to follow federal laws regarding potential development of the station, noting that the state “has the authority to implement” air quality and coastal zone management matters while stressing that state officials “need to do it within the framework of federal law.”

Any mention of following federal immigration laws, however, was missing from the governor’s answers to questions regarding the Safe Communities Act, a pro-illegal immigration measure that would essentially enact sanctuary city policies statewide. The proposal drew hordes of activists when the matter was heard at a public hearing last month.

“I’ll be a hard sell on this one, just ‘cause I’ve been a local official, and I’ve talked to a lot of local officials, and the local officials I’ve talked to — wherever they stand on this generally, and most of them are very ‘pro’ to the new arrivals to their communities — they all have different sense as to what they think makes the most sense to ensure that their communities are safe,” Baker said at one point, apparently referring to his time as a member of the Swampscott Board of Selectmen. “I get very nervous about taking away their ability to do what they think makes sense.”

Baker noted that he envisions the new 27-member Latino Advisory Committee will focus on such subjects.

“With that said, you don’t put a commission like this together with this kind of talent if you don’t expect them to talk about and address some difficult issues,” he said. “I certainly expect them to do that.”