The Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security will soon hold a hearing on the so-called Safe Communities Act.
But beware the title. There’s nothing “safe” about this bill.
If enacted, it would turn every Massachusetts municipality into a “sanctuary city” for illegal alien criminals — regardless of the wishes of local officials and voters. That means police departments won’t be allowed to turn illegal aliens detained for rape, armed robbery and attempted murder over to federal law enforcement.
This legislation is an affront to justice and places all residents — but especially immigrant communities — at increased risk.
Massachusetts lawmakers should scrap it.
Federal and state cooperation in law enforcement has long been a cornerstone of our justice system. Immigration is no exception.
In 1996, Congress passed the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which mandated the deportation of all immigrants convicted of crimes. The bill empowered state and local law enforcement officials to cooperate with the federal government in the interest of public safety.
By and large, localities still believe they can best protect the public by cooperating with federal authorities on immigration. Police in most Massachusetts communities regularly exchange information about persons in custody with the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But a handful of communities have elected to become “sanctuary cities.” These jurisdictions heavily restrict cooperation with federal authorities and protect criminal aliens from deportation. They operate under the false assumption that those in custody, or under government suspicion, are just victims of a punitive federal law enforcement agency.
Now, sanctuary supporters are pushing for the passage of the “Safe Communities Act” to extend these dangerous “protections” across Massachusetts. The bill would make it difficult, if not impossible, to cooperate with ICE and deport criminal aliens.
Indeed, many of its supporters want to abolish the agency.
Advocates portray this measure as part of their “resistance” to the Trump administration — but they’re really resisting the Obama administration’s policies. Under that administration, about 90% of deported aliens were convicted criminals.
Authorities have an obligation to locate non-citizens who commit crimes and deport them before they offend again. If all law enforcement organizations had deported criminal aliens, rather than releasing them back into society, we could have avoided nearly 3 million serious offenses — including 25,000 homicides — committed by criminal aliens between 1955 and 2010.
The new sanctuary bill would threaten all Massachusetts residents — but it’d particularly harm legal immigrant communities, which bear the brunt of illegal aliens’ violence.
Many gangs, composed largely of criminal aliens, terrorize these communities and routinely engage in vicious crimes — robbing, extorting, and selling drugs to pay monthly dues to MS-13 gang leaders in Central America.
In just one recent incident, federal authorities arrested 56 gang members in Massachusetts cities — including Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Revere, and Somerville. The indictment alleged that several members were responsible for the murder of at least five people and the attempted murder of at least 14 people in the last five years. Authorities charged others with drug trafficking, extortion, firearm violations, immigration offenses and fraud.
This situation cries out for federal and state cooperation to deport those who put everyone at risk — especially immigrant communities.
But advocates for the “Safe Communities Act” are so adamant about noncooperation with federal authorities that they’re willing to jeopardize the safety of all state communities, rather than let them work with ICE.
If this bill takes effect, its proponents will share responsibility for all crimes committed by aliens who should have been deported — but were sheltered by Massachusetts law.
John Thompson is a Boston-based consultant on economics and finance has been campaigning for immigration reform for 20 years.