SANCHEZ OPPONENT TAKES IMMIGRATION FIGHT TO BUDGET CHIEF'S OFFICE [+VIDEO]
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 3, 2018.....Liberal politics spilled into negotiations over the state's overdue budget on Monday as the top House budget-writer's Democratic primary opponent lambasted him over the House's reluctance to push back against federal immigration enforcement.
Candidate Nika Elugardo spoke Monday outside the office of her primary opponent, House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]
Nika Elugardo, who is hoping to unseat Jamaica Plain Democrat Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said he is too tied to House leadership and voters should toss him out of office.
About a dozen activists gathered outside the Ways and Means office on Monday and said they want the House to agree with a Senate budget provision sponsored by Acton Democrat Sen. Jamie Eldridge that would prohibit local law enforcement from entering collaboration agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and generally prevent police from inquiring into people's immigration status.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said he would veto that provision if it makes it into the final version of the budget, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said there is no consensus on the issue in the House. Elugardo challenged Sanchez to include those measures in the conference committee report that he is negotiating.
"He actually has the power to send this to a vote, and to force Baker to say yes or no, I will or will not stand by the safety and protection of our vibrant beautiful immigrant families and residents," Elugardo said, standing outside the Ways and Means office.
Sanchez is of Puerto Rican descent, and he spoke out on behalf of residents in that Caribbean U.S. territory after it was slammed by Hurricane Maria last year. As chair of Ways and Means, Sanchez shepherded a criminal justice bill largely hailed by liberals, heralded MassHealth, which provides insurance to low-income, disabled and elderly residents, and proposed hundreds of millions in health care assessments to stabilize community hospitals.
The Jamaica Plain Democrat was appointed to lead the budget-writing committee after last summer's departure of Brian Dempsey, a more moderate Democrat from Havervhill who took a top lobbying job at ML Strategies. This is his first annual budget. In June his Senate counterpart, Sen. Karen Spilka, who is scheduled to take over as Senate president later this month, suggested that people who support Eldridge's immigration provision contact their state reps.
Sanchez's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
SHNS Video: Nika Elugardo outside Sanchez's office
Before becoming the House budget chief, Sanchez sparred on the House floor with Republicans seeking to impose stricter limits on benefits for unauthorized immigrants.
"I just still can't get over that we're having a debate on a group of students as if they're taking something away from any other student here in the Commonwealth – that they're taking something away," Sanchez exclaimed during a 2014 budget debate over an amendment seeking to restrict in-state tuition rates to citizens and permanent residents. "They're not taking anything away. They're seeking opportunities."
Politicians generally refrain from outright campaigning within the State House, often holding political events on the State House steps instead.
"My campaign would prefer that I would be door-knocking right now," Elugardo said, when asked if she had strayed into campaigning within the State House. She said, "What I'm doing here is what I've always done, which is raising visibility of issues, what the solutions are that are out there. It is true that one of the solutions to bad policy is to replace our reps. So in that sense, I'm always campaigning no matter what I'm doing because I'm a candidate."
Aside from Elugardo, none of the activists who assembled Monday said they live within Sanchez's district. Judith Goldberger said she lives in Jamaica Plain in a neighboring district and said she believes the so-called "Safe Communities" Senate budget amendment could expose a vulnerability for Sanchez.
The event was organized by Alex Place, who said he lives in Milton. Elugardo, who was the main speaker, used it to light into her Sanchez and others.
"If all your leadership represents is permission to follow racist policies, then that's unacceptable to most of the people in our districts," Elugardo told reporters. She told the crowd, "If you have a representative that is not as progressive as your district, fire them. They're not doing their job in five, 10, 15 years, fire them. If you call your representative and they say, 'There's nothing I can do,' you should politely ask them to go find a job they're capable of doing."
Serving the working press since 1894