Malia, Like Fellow JP Rep. Sánchez, Couldn’t Force Public Vote on Immigration Protections

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Jamaica Plain state representatives Jeffrey Sánchez and Liz Malia both supported immigration provisions as a rider in the state budget. But neither demanded a public roll call from their colleagues—despite being chair and assistant vice chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means—because they say they didn't have the numbers to support it.

As previously reported in Jamaica Plain News, Sánchez was disappointed the immigration provisions were stripped from the state budget during House-Senate negotiations. The provisions, which among other things would have prohibited police from asking people their immigration status unless required by federal or state law, ultimately did not appear in the approved state budget.

Malia said she is also disappointed the legislature didn't have enough votes to override Governor Charlie Baker's veto. As for why a public vote wasn't taken, she told Jamaica Plain News, "It appears many of my colleagues didn’t want to take the vote, especially in certain purple and red districts of our commonwealth. Unfortunately, they found a way to block the inclusion of the protection provisions, although some corrections were required."

The budget rider was a remnant of the Safe Communities Act. Malia was a cosponsor of the act, as was Sánchez.

While the House's budget didn't include the immigration protections, the budget the Massachusetts Senate passed did include language that, among other proposed provisions, would have mandated that police making arrests inform undocumented immigrants of their right to have a lawyer present during questioning by federal immigration officials.

Malia said she supports that language becoming law, as well as a prohibition on police asking people their immigration status unless required by federal or state law—another provision that was stripped from the budget.

“Sadly, we supporters, including Chairman Sánchez, didn’t have enough votes to make it happen under Governor Baker’s looming veto threat, which essentially axed the effort," she said. "This heartbreaking fact demonstrates that there’s much more work to do. In many ways—similar to the (same-sex) marriage vote—individual outreach to all 160 members of the legislature is needed."

While disappointed, Malia also pointed to positive civil rights legislation included in the budget. “We provided juvenile courts with clear statutory authority to protect unaccompanied immigrant youth from deportation, made sure both documented and undocumented students have access to quality public education and English language learner programs, and required adequate training for LGBT senior providers," she said.

Malia said she will continue to fight for immigrant protections, and to lobby House leadership to pass the Safe Communities Act next session.

"In the meantime, everyone must be aware that each municipality has the power to implement safe community principals," Malia said. "I’m proud of Mayor (Marty) Walsh for taking the stand he did in Boston, which sent the message to Washington: Immigrants are welcome here and will not be subject to harassment."