BOSTON (WWLP)—A group of Republican lawmakers is taking action with new legislation following a ruling by the state’s highest court. They filed an immigration enforcement bill that would allow Massachusetts law enforcement to arrest or detain someone for federal officials.
But the bill was met with opposition. Several immigrant rights activists chanted “keep hate out of out state” as the bill’s sponsors held a press conference Wednesday. State Representative Jim Lyons (R-Andover), one of the bill’s sponsors said the group’s purpose with the bill is to protect citizens in Massachusetts from criminal illegal immigrants.
“We want to make sure that our law enforcement officers have the tools necessary and one of those tools is to be able to work cooperatively with our federal authorities,” said Lyons.
The bill allows local law enforcement to officers to enforce federal law, but immigrant rights activists said people with no criminal convictions are also being targeted.
“The problem is that the federal laws that we have have been criminalizing undocumented people,” said Executive Director Patricia Montes of Centro Presente, a Latin American immigrant organization.
This comes just days after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that detentions or arrests for federal immigration enforcement is not permitted by state law. Bill supporters say this ties the hands of law enforcement officers.
“When the laws are on the books, you can’t expect that any of us are going to pick and choose what laws we want to follow or carve out in our partnerships with federal authorities,” said Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.
The bill will likely need more support in order to come before the full legislature for a vote.