Letter: Rep. Malia Fails to Save the Safe Communities Act

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When I was in high school, I became close friends with a girl who came from a family of proud immigrants. As we became closer, she shared with me the stories of family members who were undocumented and how they feared being stripped from their loved ones and the life they built here in America. Ever since then, I have become invested in the policies that affect the immigrants of our country. I have been heartbroken seeing the DREAM Act die in Congress while also feeling the growing presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in our state.

This explains as to why I was incredibly disappointed when the news broke earlier this month that the Safe Communities Act policy rider was stripped from the MA FY19 budget. In a state as progressive as Massachusetts, I would have hoped that our elected officials would have the courage to protect the vulnerable of our community from the predatory actions of ICE and the Trump administration.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the Safe Communities Act (SCA), it is essentially a safeguard for everyone in our community, no matter immigration status, race or ethnicity, or religion. It does so by ensuring our state officials and state departments do not participate in or sponsor the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies that have emerged from the Trump administration and the growing influence of ICE. More specifically, the SCA would have prohibited local officials from collaborating with ICE, would have banned state support of a Muslim registry, and would guarantee basic rights to due process for those detained for civil immigration violations.

Much of the blame for the failure of the SCA can be put on the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means, which is the committee responsible for reviewing the legislation that affects the finances of our state. In July, when debating the upcoming FY19 budget, they stripped all SCA language from the budget. I am especially disappointed in the Assistant Vice Chair of this committee, Rep. Liz Malia, D-11th Suffolk, on her inaction. She has let down her constituents by not utilizing her position of power to save this important policy, and has also refused to publicly speak out on it since it was turned down. This is not the first time we have seen Malia act against our best interests and instead voted more in line with the wishes of the speaker of the House. For example, she voted against debt-free college, voted to eliminate term limits for the speaker, and has never co-sponsored single payer/Medicare-for-all legislation.

With a new tragedy taking over the news cycle each week, like the horrors of the ICE facilities in which children are being ripped from their families and the stories of arbitrary deportations across our country, we needed the protection Safe Communities Act more than ever. I want a representative that is vocal on progressive values representing me, not one that is working just to support the speaker. When it comes to these defining issues of our time, we must seek to elect officials we can count on to stand on the right side of history.

First, they came for the immigrants, and she did nothing.

Kathleen Florentine
Jamaica Plain