Policy

The “Sanctuary State” Amendment Is No More

It would have stopped local law enforcement from helping ICE.

Boston Massachusetts State House Capitol Beacon Hill bright sunny day and blue sky with flag

A “sanctuary state” proposal in the budget, which would have prevented local law enforcement from spending limited time and resources helping ICE, has been removed after legislators said they couldn’t come to an agreement on the idea.

The state Senate had supported an amendment that would have stopped local police from acting as federal immigration agents by prohibiting 287(g) cooperation agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and would also have stopped police from inquiring about immigration status unless required by law. Immigrant activists say teaming up with the federal agency responsible for rounding up and deporting undocumented people damages relationships with the communities they police and squanders resources better spent dealing with crime.

But the idea received a lot of pushback. Gov. Charlie Baker had opposed it, and when similar proposals were made in a proposed bill called the Safe Communities Act, he threatened to veto it. “We did not feel that that would enhance the quality of public safety in the commonwealth,” Baker told reporters recently. “We do not believe making Massachusetts a sanctuary state was a good idea.” The amendment stalled in the House, where, according to Speaker Robert DeLeo, there was “no consensus” on the issue.

Groups that have been calling for policies to protect immigrants in the state from federal authorities say they’re frustrated by the decision. “We are deeply disappointed. The Massachusetts Legislature had a prime opportunity to stand up for civil rights and human decency, and under political pressure from Governor Baker and conservative Democrats, it backed down. The safety and well-being of tens of thousands of immigrant families will suffer as a result,” Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said, according to the State House News Service.

Bob Massie and Jay Gonzalez, Democrats running for governor, railed against the decision, and said they would file the Safe Communities Act if elected.