Pro-Immigrant Safety Measures Make Headway in State House
Decision on Safe Driving Bill postponed to May 15; Trust Act passed favorably out of committee
March 20, 2014 BOSTON — Immigrant advocates and their allies reacted positively to the decisions yesterday from various legislative committees on bills that would increase public safety and equity in Massachusetts. The Joint Committee on Transportation extended until May 15 its consideration of the Safe Driving Bill, which would allow all otherwise qualified Massachusetts residents to earn a driver's license, regardless of their immigration status. And the Joint Committee on Public Safety favorably reported out the Trust Act, which would grant local law enforcement decision making power over whether or not to honor detainers issued by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for low-level, non-dangerous detainees.
"The extension of the Safe Driving Bill is good news for everyone concerned about improving road safety," said Safe Driving Bill co-sponsor Senator Pat Jehlen. "Members of the Joint Committee on Transportation had dozens of bills to consider by yesterday, so by postponing a decision on this particular measure, they demonstrated the seriousness with which they're taking this commonsense change to state licensing."
Senator Jamie Eldridge, lead co-sponsor of the Trust Act, was also pleased by the favorable ruling on the Trust Act. "I'm extremely happy that the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security has favorably reported out the Trust Act today," he said. "I'm deeply grateful to the committee chairs, Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Clinton) and Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole), for their support of a bill that will limit local law enforcement's submission to unjust, unnecessary, and unsafe federal deportation programs, therefore restoring the trust between immigrant communities and police, and increasing the public safety for all residents in Massachusetts."
Other bills important to immigrant communities also had their deadlines extended, including the Special Juvenile BIll, which would close a loophole between Massachusetts and Federal law (extended until June 30) and the English Language Learner's Bill, which would improve opportunities for public school students who don't speak English as a first language (extended to May 15). Immigrant advocates and allies tempered their enthusiasm by noting their dismay that the Tuition Equity bill, or "In-State Tuition Bill," was sent to study.
"The In-State Tuition bill would have benefited those who for various reasons didn't qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), and because DACA is only a temporary status, it would have fully protected the many young students who are now only able to attend school because of DACA," said Heloisa Galvao, Executive Director of the Brazilian Woman's Group and a member of the MA Safe Driving Coalition. "But our coalition members are heartened by the favorable ruling on the Trust Act and the extension of the Safe Driving Bill and others. Now we need to inform the community on how these practical measures would benefit the entire Commonwealth, giving all our residents greater security and a chance for greater prosperity."
The MA Safe Driving Coalition includes over 60 organizations: Action for Boston Community Development; The African Council; Agencia ALPHA; American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts; American Friends Service Committee; Anti-Defamation League; Berkshire Immigrant Center; Brazilian Immigrant Center; Brazilian Women's Group; Boston New Sanctuary Movement; Brockton Interfaith Community; Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores New Bedford (CCT); Cleghorn Neighborhood Center; CEDC of Southeastern Massachusetts; Centro Cristiano Tiempo de Dios; Centro Bom Samaritano; Chelsea Collaborative; Clinicians for Healthy Familes; Committee for Portuguese Legislation; Congregacion Leon de Juda; Dominican Development Center; Essex County Community Organization (ECCO); Framingham Adult ESL Plus; Greater Worcester Immigration Coalition; Hampshire Franklin Central Labor Council; Harvest Ministries of New England; Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia de Lynn; Immigration Pastoral Center, Inc.; Imperial Auto LLC; Irish International Immigrant Center; Jewish Community Relations Council; Joyce & Associates, P.C.; Just Communities of Western Massachusetts; La Comunidad, Inc.; Latino Health Institute; Latinos Unidos en Massachusetts (LUMA);Massachusetts Communities Action Network; Metro West Worker Center; Midwest Grill; Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA); Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI); MIRA USA; Muqueca Restaurant; Merrimack Valley Project (MVP); New Lynn Coalition; Lynn Worker Center; REACH Beyond Domestic Violence; Maria Luisa de Moreno Int. Foundation; Neighbor to Neighbor (Worcester); Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE); Radio 650 AM; Rapo & Jepsen Insurance; 32BJ SEIU District 615; 1199 SEIU; SEIU Local 509; Spettus Steak House; Sonia’s Auto Car; Stephen W. Gersh Insurance Agency, Inc.; Temple Hillel B'nai Torah;UNITE HERE Local 26; United Interfaith Action of Southern Massachusetts;Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice; Worcester Interfaith.