Dangerous Immigration Policies Advance in Massachusetts Police Reform Bill
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | August 2020
The Massachusetts state legislature has been debating a “police reform” bill for the several weeks. Included in the numerous provisions of multiple versions of the bill have been features that could make the already-bad situation for immigration enforcement in the Bay State dramatically worse.
The solidly liberal Senate rammed its version (S. 2820) through in one lengthy overnight session on July 14, by a vote of 30-7, with all the “yes” votes coming from Democrats. Five Democrats joined two Republicans in opposing the bill, while the two other Republicans voted “present.”
The process in the more moderate House took longer. The bill was first sent to the Ways and Means Committee which received over 3,000 items of written testimony, including testimony from FAIR. Once it passed the Committee and headed to the Floor, House Members considered 200 amendments between July 20 and July 24. The House passed its version of the bill, H. 4886 on July 24 by a vote of 93-66. This is less than the two-thirds supermajority that would be required for an override if Governor Charlie Baker (R) ultimately vetoes the bill.
Despite the twists, turns and marginal changes in details, each version of the bill would:
- Give open-borders groups appointments to new statewide oversight boards and thus the ability to refashion police objectives to protect illegal aliens, including but not limited to punishing law enforcement and corrections officers who cooperate with federal immigration authorities;
- Act as an open door for unaccountable unelected entities to potentially impose dangerous sanctuary policies administratively, without the accountability of going through the legislature;
- Go way beyond simply creating certification requirements and allow oversight boards to create one-size-fits-all policies that end the ability of local communities to set their own law enforcement priorities;
- Shield and protect criminal aliens by making a person’s immigration status a factor in whether an officer could be penalized for “misconduct” based on “bias;”
- Unnecessarily restrict the information that schools can provide to law enforcement officials; and
- Impede communication and collaboration between local law enforcement and federal enforcement officials, particularly with respect to facial recognition information from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Law enforcement officials have strongly come out against the bill, which they believe will make doing their jobs far more difficult. Yet open-borders groups have also criticized the House’s amended version for not going far enough.
Since the House and Senate passed different versions of their police reform bill, the bills must be reconciled. Each chamber appointed three of its members to a conference committee. The Senate appointed Senators William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and the House appointed Representatives Claire Cronin (D-Easton), Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield) and Tim Whelan (R-Brewster).
Once the conference committee produces a reconciled bill, called a conference report, it will be voted on by the House and Senate. The conference report cannot be amended and can only receive a final up-or-down vote.
Governor Baker supports the police reform in principle and legislative leaders are trying to ensure the bill doesn’t contain measures he’d oppose. If the bill passed goes beyond the reform measures he supports, he could veto the legislation. It appears at this juncture that the House will not have the votes needed to override his veto.
The legislature was scheduled to adjourn on July 31, but they have extended their formal session to finish this bill and a few others. Exactly when they might adjourn is now unclear.