BOSTON (State House News Service) – As communities that offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants brace for a Donald Trump presidency, Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday said he will fight to make sure those Massachusetts towns don’t lose federal funding under the new president.
“I’ve said all along that I think decisions about how communities want to manage their public safety issues and their community issues belong to them and they should make whatever decisions they make,” Baker said of communities that chose to defy federal immigration law. “Then it’s incumbent on our administration and on our congressional delegation to work hard to make sure that our state continues to receive the federal support that we’ve previously been able to secure.”
President-elect Trump made his pledges to pull funding from so-called sanctuary cities and deport millions of undocumented immigrants central tenets of his successful campaign and his victory last week over Democrat Hillary Clinton thrust some sanctuary cities into a panic.
“Block funding for sanctuary cities. We block the funding. No more funds,” Trump said during an August speech on immigration. “We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.”
Sanctuary cities, while not a legal designation, are those where policies exist to prevent police and other officials from asking about immigration status or to use municipal resources to enforce federal immigration law. Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Northampton and Springfield are among the Massachusetts communities that consider themselves part of the category.
“The election last Tuesday brought a lot of fear to this country and this city. A lot of people who are immigrants in this city are worried about their families and their kids,” Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said Wednesday morning on Boston Herald Radio.
Walsh said he believes Trump’s threats to defund sanctuary cities is “a lot of rhetoric” aimed at keeping his most fervent supporters on board as he waffles on some of his other campaign promises.
“I think he’s trying to play to his base to get his base excited because some of the other issues that were talked about during the campaign — whether it’s Obamacare or some of the other things, gay rights — he seems to have backed off a lot of his stands on some of that stuff,” the mayor said on the radio.
During an interview on 60 Minutes that aired Sunday, Trump backed away from his promise to fully repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and altered his tune on mass deportations.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers — we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could even be three million — we are getting them out of our country or we’re going to incarcerate,” he said on 60 Minutes. “After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized we’re going to make a determination on” non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
Since Trump’s election, Massachusetts residents have bombarded Baker’s constituent services office with phone calls urging the governor to reject Trump’s rhetoric and declare Massachusetts a safe haven.
Baker said his constituent services phone line “went down for a while” Wednesday morning, though “there wasn’t a lot of traffic on it when it went down.”
“We’re a global community, we’re a global commonwealth. People need to feel welcome here,” he said. “I can tell you point blank as governor that I’ll continue to work with my colleagues in state and local government and others to ensure that everybody feels welcome here in the commonwealth of Mass. and we will not tolerate — we will not tolerate — acts of violence against anyone.”