Massachusetts immigration advocates are pushing once again for passage of legislation, dubbed the Safe Communities Act, that would prohibit local law enforcement officials from asking about immigration status, unless legally required to do so, and limit communication between police and court officials and federal immigration agents.
A coalition of immigrant rights groups, including the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, met on Beacon Hill Wednesday for a so-called "lobby day" to rally support and strategize for the coming session.
The bills, filed in both the State Senate and the Massachusetts House, represent a slightly revised version of similar legislation introduced last year. The measure passed the Senate but stalled in the House after leaders declined to take it up for a vote.
Gov. Charlie Baker had opposed the measure, saying that the limits of local law enforcement should be set community by community, not by state law.
Baker’s office did not return a request for comment Wednesday on the newest version of the legislation.
The immigrant advocacy groups are preparing for a sustained lobbying campaign during this session, and hope that an influx of new members to the Massachusetts House might tilt the odds in their favor this time.
Zayda Ortiz, of the activist group Indivisible Mystic Valley, said she is choosing to remain optimistic.
“I'm excited for the new wave of freshmen reps in the house and I'm hoping, optimistically but cautiously, that we can make something happen,” Ortiz said.
“This is about due process, the basic, fundamental building block of our constitution,” said Ortiz, whose parents immigrated from Mexico after a hurricane destroyed their livelihood, later becoming U.S. citizens. “Hopefully, with changing minds and reminding people of their ancestry and their past, we can get this bill passed.”
Addressing coalition members before a short strategy session, State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, one of the bill’s Senate sponsors, said the measure is popular, noting that the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association endorsed the last version of the legislation.
“They recognized they want to focus on protecting the public safety, and not enforcing immigration law,” Eldridge said.
Read more: Should Local Police Act Like ICE Agents?
Speaking to reporters outside of the meeting, Eldridge acknowledged that Baker does not appear to have changed his stance.
But, Eldridge said, there’s still time for Baker to change his mind.
“Until his re-election, he opposed [raising] taxes,” Eldridge said, “And now he’s including in his budget a number of taxes, so I’m optimistic that we can convince him to support this very modest, common-sense reform.” Baker has opposed broad-based tax increases. His latest budget proposal included a proposal to raise a real estate transfer tax and implementing other targeted tax revenues.
Eldridge rebuffed Baker’s argument that the statewide legislation is inappropriate, noting that the governor supported statewide laws regulating ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, and new state regulations for short-term rental platforms like Airbnb.