Once Again, State Senate Adopts Anti-Immigrant Amendment in Budget

Measures seek to deprive children of housing, burden small businesses, and deny employment to many authorized workers

May 25, 2012 BOSTON —Speaking on the Senate floor about a provision that mandates the use of E-Verify for businesses contracting with state government, Senator Wolf of Harwich said, "I have hired thousands of people in a lot of areas: New Bedford, Boston, Provincetown, Hyannis. I can tell you we have never had an issue that relates to E-Verification that would make me want to support it. The [current] I-9 validation requires multiple forms of proof that are working. Part of this amendment looks like a solution in search of a problem."

The Senate then went ahead and approved this and many other punitive solutions to problems that simply don't exist.

The E-Verify provision is included under Amendment 128, the so-called "Fair Employment and Security" amendment, which includes a host of disturbing measures. Due to rampant errors in the E-Verify system, employment is often denied to authorized workers — including native-born citizens — with no effective remedy for these mistakes. The amendment could also compel state authorities to refuse housing to mixed status families that include U.S. citizen children. This provision could leave U.S. citizen children homeless and also subject the state to litigation, as a previous court injunction suggested that the provision is likely unconstitutional. Furthermore, it increases criminal penalties for a host of minor infractions that normally are not legislated through fiscal measures, burdening our court systems with criminal penalties out of proportion with the infractions. Among these measures are increased penalties for driving without a license, without recognition that this is a necessity for thousands of tax-paying, hard-working residents. As Senator Brownsberger of Arlington said on the Senate floor, "People will drive in the face of penalties, whether they are American citizens or not... They simply have to."

This is the third year that the Senate has approved harsh anti-immigrant legislative measures through the budget process. Said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition: "We are deeply disappointed that the Senate has yet again caved into anti-immigrant sentiments and adopted these harmful provisions. It seems that the Senate has passed these burdensome measures simply so lawmakers could again boast that they are cracking down on immigrants. We hope that common sense and decency will return as the budget process continues. We are not done fighting for immigrants' rights. We will continue to work to exclude these harmful provisions from the final budget, and end this cycle of political scapegoating."