SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security will hear testimony on a contentious immigration bill that would limit local and state police interact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Safe Communities Act was re-filed in January 2019 after it failed to pass in the previous session. It would bar police and court officials from asking people about their immigration status and telling ICE when an individual is about to be released.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat who introduced the House version of the bill, said he added language about court officials because of reports about courthouse arrests.
A federal judge temporarily blocked courthouse arrests in Massachusetts after local prosecutors and attorneys sued ICE over the practice. Eldridge said a constituent told him an immigrant was detained after leaving a local courthouse.
“They’re not going into the courthouses because of this federal injunction due to the lawsuit from Middlesex District Attorney [Marian] Ryan and Suffolk District Attorney [Rachael] Rollins, but they certainly unfortunately have the right to be outside the courthouse,” Eldridge said. “We want to make sure court personnel are not notifying ICE.”
Parents whose children were killed by immigrants without legal status called the Safe Communities Act a “sanctuary state bill” that would jeopardize public safety.
“Our family as we knew it was destroyed, and we are now permanently separated,” said Maureen Maloney, whose son Matthew Denice was dragged to his death in 2011 by a truck driven by an undocumented immigrant who was under the influence.
Nicolas Dutan Guaman, an Ecuadorian national, was convicted of manslaughter and motor vehicle homicide.
“My son is dead because of the lax immigration laws and because of the legislators and judges who put illegal aliens before the protection of Americans,” said Maloney, vice president of the Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime.
Supporters of the legislation argue that immigrants and U.S.-citizen loved ones have suffered because they can’t get help from police, hospitals without fear of being targeted by immigration agents.
Other provisions in the bill include requiring that immigrants who are arrested get their “Miranda” rights read to them, including presenting the option to bring in an attorney before being interviewed by an ICE agent.
The bill would also bar law enforcement from entering 287(g) contracts with ICE, in which a local officer is appointed to work with the agency. That provision alone has drawn criticism from Sheriffs Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County and Joseph McDonald of Plymouth, who currently have the agreements in place.
“I can’t imagine any legislator in Massachusetts who took an oath to protect the people in their communities would suggest in any way that law enforcement would not use every resource and look for every partnership they could to keep people safe,” Hodgson told MassLive earlier this year.