BOSTON – Legislators and advocates gathered today for a virtual press conference to announce the refiling of the Safe Communities Act (SD.532/HD.1165) and call for its swift passage, emphasizing that it is both a public safety and a public health imperative – and critical to Massachusetts’ ability to address COVID-19.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representatives Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda, would end state and local law enforcement involvement in deportations, including ending so-called 287(g) collaboration agreements that deputize sheriffs and correctional personnel as ICE agents at state taxpayers’ expense. It will help restore trust in public institutions and ensure that everyone can seek medical care, emergency assistance, and court and police protection without fear of deportation.
“Throughout our Commonwealth’s history, immigrants have enriched the culture, economy, and social fabric of Massachusetts. In order to ensure no immigrant has to live in fear, and everyone’s civil rights are protected equally, I have re-filed the Safe Communities Act this session.” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “This bill will ensure that Massachusetts values, law enforcement, and taxpayer dollars are not enabling mass deportation policies. As the Legislature continues its work on racial equity, it’s critical that we pass immigration reform to stand up for Massachusetts values.”
“Just as the new Administration in Washington is taking steps to make the United States a more welcoming home for immigrants and refugees, so, too, we are proposing the Safe Communities Act to send the same message about Massachusetts,” said State Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton). “By making clear that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, and by ending local and state involvement, we will ensure that the people of Massachusetts will feel safe turning to local law enforcement and health care resources when necessary. I’m proud to be a sponsor of the Safe Communities Act.”
“As State Representative of a district with over 50% of residents being foreign born, it’s clear this pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on immigrants and communities of color, further compounded with the perception that engaging with local government, police, courts, and hospitals risks family separation,” said State Representative Liz Miranda (D-Boston). “It’s time to act and send a message to all immigrants in the Commonwealth, rebuilding and restoring trust across institutions.”
“For years, our community health centers have seen immigrant patients disenrolling from MassHealth and delaying or avoiding treatment out of fear that their information will be shared with ICE,” said Michael Curry, President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “During COVID-19, these fears have undermined testing, treatment and contact tracing efforts in immigrant communities, and could also impact vaccine administration. The Safe Communities Act will restore trust in our public institutions and more urgently, as we rollout the COVID-19 vaccine, ensure that our immigrant communities have access to this life-saving measure.”
“Nobody should live in fear of reporting domestic violence or sexual assault, but this is the reality for far too many immigrant survivors in Massachusetts,” said Hema Serang-Sieminski, Policy Director of Jane Doe Inc. “When law enforcement is involved in deportations, immigrant survivors avoid seeking legal or medical help for fear of family separation. No one should have to choose between safety and family separation. Especially during COVID-19, when so many survivors face the additional barriers of isolation and limited resources, it is essential that Massachusetts acts to pass the Safe Communities Act immediately.”
“On behalf of the MA Safe Communities Coalition, a broad and diverse group of nearly 100 organizations committed to ending state and local law enforcement involvement in deportations, I’d like to thank Senator Eldridge and Representatives Balser and Miranda, as well as the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and Jane Doe Inc. for their support of the Safe Communities Act,” said Pastor Dieufort Fleurissaint (Pastor Keke), who represents Haitian-Americans United, Inc. in the MA Safe Communities Coalition. “I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on immigrants of color and how too many in our community avoid seeking the medical care and police and court protection they need out of fear of immigration consequences. The Massachusetts legislature cannot let this continue – we need to pass the Safe Communities Act now.”
Last legislative session, the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security recommended the Safe Communities Act for passage, but it did not advance beyond the Committee on Ways and Means. More information about the bill can be found here and a list of 207 endorsing organizations can be found here.