Activists Disrupt Illegal Immigration Bill Announcement

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BOSTON — Pro-illegal immigration activists crashed a press conference on Wednesday held to announce the filing of a bill intended to combat a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision barring local police departments from acting upon federal detainer requests.

“Keep hate out of our state,” the activists chanted, disrupting state Representative Jim Lyons (R-Andover), who at the time was speaking to reporters from a podium.

“Folks, I appreciate the fact that you came, I’m not going to interrupt you, please do not interrupt me,” Lyons told the lead protester, identified as Centro Presente Executive Director Patricia Montes. “Please, be respectful.”

“I am being respectful,” Montes shot back. “But you’re not being respectful of the immigrant community.”

The testy exchange occurred inside the State House, where a gaggle of reporters had assembled to hear from Lyons and other lawmakers, including fellow Republican state representatives Marc Lombardo of Billerica, Joseph McKenna of Worcester, Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton and Geoff Diehl of Whitman, regarding the group’s recently filed legislation. Also in attendance was Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who has made headlines for his critical views on illegal immigration.

“I’m listening, I’m going to listen, but if you say racist stuff against our community, we’re going to get mad,” Montes told Lyons at one point.

Hodgson later directly addressed the activists.

“Let me just remind you and the other protesters here that the First Amendment affords every one of us the opportunity to be heard, not to be interrupted, you have your forum to speak, but do not interrupt our constitutional right,” Hodgson said before being cut off by Montes.

“Don’t violate basic human rights of immigrants, that’s why I’m here,” Montes said. “You’re criminalizing the immigrant community, you have been criminalizing the immigrant community for years.”

Montes later backed off, but redoubled her efforts once Diehl began speaking. Diehl said the SJC’s ruling “makes no sense whatsoever,” prompting Montes and other activities to resume chanting. Montes appeared to draw the ire of Hodgson after she repeatedly positioned herself between the press conference podium and the lenses of television network cameras. A House court officer tried to coax Montes away from the area in front of the podium but was met with protests from Montes.

“Don’t yell at me,” Montes said to the officer, wagging her finger at him. “You know that I have rights. Don’t touch me and don’t yell at me.”

The confrontation prompted Lyons to remark, “I think you’re (Montes) the one yelling at us.”

Montes later demanded that Lyons and other lawmakers produce data on crimes committed by “undocumented immigrants.”

“I’m not talking about cases, I want to have specific data, you’re filing a bill and I imagine you have enough information, because basically what you are saying is that all undocumented people in Massachusetts are criminals,” a visibly animated Montes said.

“You may not like the answer, but you’ve asked a question,” Lyons said. “And I didn’t interrupt you the way you interrupted us.”

Lyons mentioned late May’s fentanyl drug bust in Lawrence, which resulted in the arrests of 30, at least nine of whom had entered the country illegally.

“Our purpose in this bill is not to say that there are illegal immigrants and everyone’s a criminal, despite the fact that that’s what you’re saying, our purpose of this bill is to protect the citizens of the United States and specifically Massachusetts,” Lyons said.

Lyons and other lawmakers filed the bill, titled An Act to Clarify the Jurisdiction of Law Enforcement Officials on Immigration issues, on Tuesday. Ahead of Wednesday’s press conference, Lyons took to social media and wrote on his Facebook page that the bill “will allow police and law enforcement personnel to arrest illegal immigrants.”

Meanwhile, Lyons told reporters and activists at Wednesday’s press conference that he and other lawmakers “want to make sure that our law enforcement officers have the tools necessary, and one of those tools is to be able to work cooperatively with our federal authorities.”

Montes began speaking loudly again while Lombardo was at the microphone.

“This is very common for the left,” Lombardo said, regarding Montes’s behavior.

Montes later led activists in additional chants as Lyons attempted to end the press conference.

Lyons earlier noted that one of the goals he and other GOP lawmakers hope to achieve is to convince Democrats, who dominate the state Legislature, “understand that public safety is the responsibility of local authorities.”

“The Democratic Party in Massachusetts is able to get things done quickly; every day that they refuse to address the underlying safety of our communities they are putting our citizens at risk,” Lyons said, before taking a swipe at the legislative and constitutional officer pay raise bill championed by Democratic leadership and passed in January at the beginning of the current session in January.

“What we are demanding is that this Legislature look at this bill and determine that the public safety of Massachusetts citizens is paramount, and we would urge them to pass this legislation,” Lyons added.

Read a copy of the bill:

07-25-2017 an Act to Clarify the Jurisdiction of Law Enforcement Officials on Immigration Issues by Evan on Scribd