Lawmakers debate controversial ‘sanctuary state’ bill

The bill would prohibit state resources from being used for federal immigration enforcement

BOSTON (WWLP) – Residents are calling on lawmakers to make Massachusetts a “sanctuary state” to protect all of its inhabitants and ensure your tax payer dollars are being used for local crimes. But some think sanctuary status may inhibit law enforcement.

Several hundred residents and officials gathered at the State House Friday to discuss the state’s immigration enforcement policies. The state’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee’s public hearing on a bill known as the Safe Communities Act had residents overflowing out the doors, calling on lawmakers to make Massachusetts a “sanctuary state.”

Several communities including Northampton have come out as “sanctuary cities,” an act Northampton resident Chris Golden said helps people feel safe.

“If we can make immigrants feel safe in talking to the police, then they will be able to report crimes,” Golden said. “We have a moral responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable in our community.”

Massachusetts lawmakers to hear immigration ‘sanctuary’ bill

If approved, the bill would prohibit state resources and police from being used for federal immigration enforcement. Under the proposal, residents cannot be detained solely for immigration purposes.

Critics of the proposal are concerned violent criminals may flock to “sanctuary states” to avoid deportation.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told 22News that the bill hinders law enforcement’s ability to protect residents from criminal undocumented immigrants.

“Crimes that have barred us from being able to communicate with ice include things like assault on a pregnant woman, child pornography, prostitution,” Hodgson said. “We do have an obligation to do everything we can to round up every criminal illegal alien in our communities and keep people safe.”

Could sanctuary cities be doing more harm than good?

Governor Charlie Baker sent 22News a statement that he opposes the bill:

“The safety and security of our communities is a top priority for our administration, and I oppose this bill that would prohibit law enforcement from enforcing bipartisan policies that have been in place for 10 years and prevented violent and dangerous convicted criminals from being released back onto our streets. This legislation would also prevent the Massachusetts State Police from upholding our policy to detain individuals for federal authorities that have been convicted of heinous crimes, like murder and rape, and weakens current public safety measures that are designed to keep us safer.  Our administration does not support making the Commonwealth a sanctuary state and urges the Legislature to hold this bill in committee and reconsider ways to ensure Massachusetts remains a welcoming place while maintaining public safety.”