Massachusetts Senate Adopts Sanctuary Budget Amendment
By David Jaroslav | May 31, 2018
Unable to get their dangerous sanctuary state proposals passed as standalone bills, supporters of illegal aliens in Massachusetts have now resorted to playing games with the Bay State's budget. On May 23, they managed to amend sanctuary language into the Massachusetts Senate's budget bill. Fortunately, opposition from both the Governor and the Speaker of the House, among others, means this is probably still unlikely to actually become law.
Amendment 1147 by Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) forbids state and local law enforcement from asking about anyone's immigration status. It also forbids maintaining records for, accessing, requesting information from, providing information to, or spending resources on, any federal "registration" program regarding immigration status, which could easily be read as a general prohibition on information-sharing and cooperation with federal immigration authorities. And finally, it specifically forbids agreements with the federal government to "perform the functions of an immigration officer," except by the Department of Corrections, and makes any such current agreements null and void. This would have the effect of cancelling the 287(g) agreements currently in place between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and three of the state's county sheriffs' offices (Barnstable, Bristol and Plymouth), as well as preventing any more in the future. The Department of Corrections had previously strenuously objected to anything that might affect its own 287(g) agreement, and the carve-out for them may be an attempt to weaken their opposition.
Curiously enough, the amendment avoids the biggest issue that all sides had been fighting over for nearly a year: whether and how to honor federal immigration detainers to hold illegal aliens for ICE, which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) forbade state and local law enforcement from doing in its decision in Lunn v. Commonwealth last July. Regarding detainers, it doesn't change anything from the status quo, thus leaving the SJC's decision forbidding compliance untouched and in place.
The amendment passed by a vote of 25-13, after an hour and a half of debate. Six Democratic Senators—Michael Brady, Anne Gobi, Marc Pacheco, Michael Rodrigues, Michael Rush and Walter Timilty – broke ranks with their party to join all seven of the Senate's Republicans in voting No.
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) complained that the Senate was "being asked to vote on an amendment that won't be considered by the House, would be rejected by the governor and is not viable," adding that, "[t]he amendment before us has internal contradictions, violates federal law, is not practical in terms of its application, and could have what I would hope would be the unintended consequence of prohibiting communication between law enforcement officials when it is in the interest of public safety."
Republican Governor Charlie Baker responded to the amendment's passage by promising to veto it if it ever reached his desk, describing it as "ridiculous and outrageous."
House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), who’d already rejected including anything similar in the House's version of the budget, said that "[n]ot a whole lot has changed in terms of the general feelings of the members ... Sure, things can change but as of right now that is not one of the issues I have been hearing from members about." Given the Speaker's opposition based on what he describes as a lack of consensus, one observer concluded that "[t]he immigration amendment has little chance of passage in the more moderate House[.]"
The Senate passed its fully-amended budget bill, including the sanctuary language, on May 25. Now it and the House will appoint three of their members each (including at least one minority member, i.e., Republican, from each chamber) to a conference committee that will resolve the differences between their bills and produce one final bill in identical form, to be debated and passed without amendment by both chambers.
With or without the sanctuary provisions, that final conference bill will then be sent to Governor Baker, who like most governors has a line-item veto with respect to the budget. While Democrats in both chambers have the votes to override a veto if they all stick together, both the six who voted against the sanctuary amendment in the Senate and Speaker DeLeo's opposition in the House suggest a veto override is unlikely.