HOUSE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS LIKES SENATE IMMIGRATION PROPOSAL
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 16, 2018...A group of state representatives has asked overdue state budget negotiators to adopt Senate language restricting local authorities from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, advocating for a measure Speaker Robert DeLeo has said would be "very difficult" to pass in the House.
The House Progressive Caucus wrote to the conference committee negotiating the state budget, tapping the Senate's immigration amendment as among its members' priorities. The caucus's exact request and the reasoning behind it are unclear, however.
An aide to Majority Whip Byron Rushing, who co-chairs the caucus with Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, said the caucus "won't be releasing an internal letter" and pointed to a June 25 tweet on the topic as the "only public statement."
Responding to a tweet from the group Progressive Massachusetts, the caucus wrote, "We can confirm we sent a letter to the conferees on our budget priorities on June 13th, including the 4 protections for immigrants. As always, we encourage our members to send their own individual letters to the conferees on our shared priorities."
The Progressive Caucus's other budget priorities include lifting a cap on family welfare benefits and increased funding for early education, the Department of Ecological Restoration, Massachusetts Legal Aid Corporation, and the YouthWorks employment program.
"The caucus wrote the conference committee on those items and the 4 immigration protections included in the Senate budget, because the Safe Communities Act is a caucus legislative priority. Members had gotten a lot of interest from constituents about whether they had advocated for that piece, so they wanted to confirm that publicly," Caroline Sherrard, Rushing's legislative director, said in an email.
The Senate amendment, which Gov. Charlie Baker has threatened to veto, would prohibit local law enforcement from entering collaboration agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and generally prevent police from inquiring into people's immigration status.
The amendment is based on a bill dubbed the Safe Communities Act and filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Juana Matias, a member of the House Progressive Caucus.
In a series of Twitter posts from late June, the caucus called the bill a priority, said its members will continue advocating for immigrant rights at all levels, and called on Massachusetts to "stand apart from this horrid deportation machine."
"Massachusetts must urgently address these immigration issues so that we no longer collaborate with the administration’s deportation agenda. We believe these steps must be taken for the safety and dignity of ALL people," one tweet said.
At the start of this two-year legislative session, 54 representatives were members of the House Progressive Caucus, according to a list from Progressive Massachusetts. The two House Democrats on the budget conference committee -- Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez and Vice Chairman Stephen Kulik -- were among the caucus members.
Despite strong public interest, the immigration enforcement measure has not emerged for debate in the House. DeLeo has said there's no consensus on the immigration proposal in the House, which is controlled by a Democratic supermajority.
"I feel that it is something that, as we're standing here right now, if you were to say take a bill to the floor and to try to get a bill passed I think it would be very difficult," the Winthrop Democrat said Wednesday.
Advocates who back the policy have lobbied House members to adopt it, with protesters warning families are living in fear due to stepped up enforcement of federal immigration laws, as budget negotiations have stretched on past the July 1 start of the fiscal year.
Protestors on Tuesday gathered outside the House chamber, where they threatened to vote unresponsive lawmakers out of office in the September primary and shouted "Shame, shame, shame" as representatives arrived for session.
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