Supporters of public safety and the rule of law have scored another remarkable victory over the open-borders crowd in liberal Massachusetts. On July 18, after weeks of wrangling and uncertainty, the legislative conference committee negotiating the Commonwealth’s overdue final budget agreement stripped out an extreme and reckless amendment that would have made the Bay State into far more of a sanctuary state than it already is.
The House had passed its version of the budget on April 26, free of any sanctuary language. But on May 23, the Senate passed a sanctuary amendment by Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton) that would have forbidden state and local law enforcement from asking about anyone’s immigration status, cancelled 287(g) agreements by any state or local agency other than the Department of Corrections, and could easily be read as a blanket ban on practically any information-sharing or other cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Six Democrat Senators broke ranks with their party to join all seven of the Senate’s Republicans in voting No. Republican Governor Charlie Baker called the Senate amendment “ridiculous and outrageous,” and promised a line-item veto if it ever reached his desk.
For roughly six weeks the six-member conference committee of both chambers met to work out a final budget agreement. They worked past the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, which required passage of a supplemental budget to fund state government through the end of the month. The 54-member House Progressive Caucus wrote privately to the conference committee insisting the Senate sanctuary amendment be left in. But in the end that didn’t matter and it was dropped from the final bill: despite supporting it himself, House Ways & Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain) said “[w]e just did not find consensus on those provisions.”
With the contentious sanctuary amendment gone, both chambers then passed the conference committee’s final budget bill with almost astonishing ease, less than seven hours after they received it: the House by a vote of 143-6 and the Senate by 36-1.
The lone “No” vote in the Senate was Senator Eldridge, the sponsor of the sanctuary amendment, who predictably bemoaned its elimination as “inexcusable and shameful.” The Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Coalition echoed his sentiments, saying they were “deeply disappointed” and blaming both Governor Baker and (relatively) conservative Democrats in the House.
By contrast, Representative Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), who has consistently opposed dangerous sanctuary policies, cheerfully tweeted: “Good news on the State Budget front. We finally have a budget coming to the floor today and it does not contain language making Massachusetts a sanctuary state.”
Over the past year, citizen activists in Massachusetts have achieved extraordinary results against the odds in holding back the sanctuary tide. But they‘ll still have to remain vigilant in the future: the other side has already promised to “push forward” and not stop their efforts any time soon.