Heated debate among lawmakers over Safe Communities Act

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (WWLP) – State lawmakers heard testimony Friday on a proposal that would make Massachusetts a sanctuary state.

The bill would provide additional protections for immigrants living in Massachusetts by preventing state and local police officers from being able to ask a person’s immigration status.

The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security heard hours of testimony Friday from people on both sides of the immigration issue.

Supports of the Safe Communities Act say it would help families who are scared to do normal tasks like go to the doctor or file a police report for fear that their immigration status could be used against them.

“What this bill would do is make it clear that the job of local police, State Police is to protect us here in Massachusetts, it’s not about immigration enforcement, that’s the job of the federal government and this doesn’t interfere with that,” said the bill’s sponsor, Newton Rep. Ruth Balser.

Opponents of the bill say it undermines law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe. They are urging lawmakers to vote against the bill and continue to follow federal immigration policy.

“It hurts law enforcement’s ability to keep people safe,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told 22News. “When they decide for themselves what laws they’re going to pick and choose to make sure are enforced in our communities, exposing the people they are supposed to protect and promise to protect to greater dangers.”

Several people at the hearing were kicked out for their outbursts in reaction to the controversial testimony.

The bill failed to pass last session. It is still unclear how the committee will vote this time around.

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