Senate Prez Rosenberg Signals Support For Massachusetts “Sanctuary State” Status

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By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 21, 2017…..A major court ruling in Massachusetts addressed some concerns of immigrants fearing deportation efforts, according to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, but further changes in law remain under discussion and Rosenberg is hoping a bill will emerge before a February 2018 deadline.

“I’m in support of legislation that will ensure that people who are lawfully living among us in terms of their daily lives are able to function in society without interference,” Rosenberg told WHMP radio during an interview Tuesday. He said he hoped people would go through the citizenship process.

The Amherst Democrat said he “absolutely” supports the objectives of a bill known as the Safe Communities Act, which would prevent local authorities from detaining someone solely at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also seeks to prohibit state agencies from providing information for any hypothetical federal program registering people based on race, sexual orientation, religion or other certain other characteristics.

The bill (S 1305, H 3269) filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton and Rep. Juana Matias of Lawrence, has been pendin before the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security since January. A separate immigration-related bill, which Gov. Charlie Baker filed Aug. 1 in response to a ruling by the state’s high court, is before the Judiciary Committee.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in July that nothing in state law authorizes state or local police to honor ICE detainer requests for defendants only wanted on civil immigration violations. The case, Lunn v. Commonwealth, was brought by a Cambodian refugee who was held by the Boston Municipal Court at the request of ICE after charges of unarmed robbery had been dismissed.

Baker’s bill (H 3870) would allow state and local police to honor detainer requests for individuals already in state custody on criminal charges or for sentences related to past violent crimes.

Rosenberg said the court found “that the laws are pretty strong in Massachusetts in terms of protecting the immigrant population.”

“The parts that the court said are really secure and in place, I don’t want to undermine them, and I’m open to the concepts that the governor has said about ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to ensure public safety, but I do not want to undermine the fundamentals that are in the law, and I also want to add to the law things that will protect against infringement on the rights of people,” he said. “Our Constitution guarantees these rights to everyone that is here, not just whether you’re a citizen or not. You cannot and should not be discriminated against on the basis of your religion or sexual orientation — blah blah blah blah all of these things — it covers everybody who walks upon our streets and lives in our communities.”

Committees have until Feb. 1 — roughly 19 weeks from now — to make decisions on the immigration bills, an earlier deadline than in past sessions.

“I’m hoping that they won’t take that long because I think there’s a lot at stake here, and we are concerned that the people have the protections they need in order to live and work and study and be engaged in communities, and that we won’t be pushing people into the shadows of life and, you know, taking away protections that they’ve had historically here, which have allowed them to thrive and be contributing members of our community,” Rosenberg said.

[Michael P. Norton contributed reporting]


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