Massachusetts House pulled back on bill aimed at countering Trump

Opponents had labeled legislation a "sanctuary state bill"

Massachusetts House Chamber

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Massachusetts House leaders indefinitely postponed a planned vote Wednesday on legislation recommended by Democrats as a response to President Donald Trump’s illegal immigration crackdown.

The bill would prevent state resources from being used to execute agreements with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train state and local enforcement to act as federal immigration agents.

On Twitter, Republican Rep. Marc Lombardo of Billerica credited the “calls, emails, & strong voice” of opponents to the “sanctuary state bill” for getting it temporarily tabled.

Filed by New Bedford Rep. Antonio Cabral, the bill was one of two that House Speaker Robert DeLeo of Winthrop had scheduled for debate on Wednesday that had been recommended by the Judiciary Committee and a special House working group tasked with crafting responses to President Trump’s policy agenda.

“We’re disappointed. We thought that this was a very good step forward,” said Marion Davis, communications director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. She told the News Service, “We feel that it’s important for the House to take a strong stand that Massachusetts resources should be used for Massachusetts people, not to implement a federal deportation agenda.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo confirmed that many House members had questions about the bill (H 3033) and said it was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee “to provide more time.”

The House advanced another bill that would prevent sheriffs from offering state inmates as labor outside of Massachusetts. Also filed by Cabral, the legislation was a direct response to Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s suggestion that he would offer to use prisoners from his facilities to help build a wall along the border with Mexico.

The postponed legislation would prohibit any state money from being used to implement what is known as a 287G agreement with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to train local law enforcement or correction officers in immigration law.

“Really, they become deputized ICE agents,” Cabral said during a recent discussion of the bill with his House colleagues on the Trump working group.

Bristol and Plymouth County sheriffs, along with the Department of Correction, have signed 287G agreements with ICE, according to Cabral, but have not yet sent any correction officers to South Carolina for training.

Federal authorities also prohibit federal tax dollars from being spent to implement the program, which Cabral said would have the effect of making any agreement unenforceable.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to using state prisoners for out-of-state labor, but on the immigration enforcement issue he referred back to the policy in place under his predecessor.

“On the second piece, Massachusetts under Gov. Patrick put in place the ability for the DOC, the Department of Correction, to do the kind of analysis and the work with federal immigration officials for dangerous, violent criminals who are inside our prison system and if they determine that they are, in fact, here illegally they work with the feds to have them removed from the country and that’s a policy that Gov. Patrick put in place and its a policy that I support,” Baker said.

[Andy Metzger and Stephanie Murray contributed reporting]

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