Safe Communities Act Hearing Testimony

Last Friday’s Safe Communities Act hearing was great! There are more of us than there are of them, and it really showed. So many people turned out in support. Now it’s just up to the State House to do the right thing.

I testified. Below is what I said. There may be video forthcoming, which I will add here when it’s available.

The Safe Communities Act (S.140 and H.3573) is one step toward creating a more inclusive, more welcoming community by legislatively affirming our commitment as a state to treating people of all backgrounds fairly. The specific goal of this bill is to ensure that immigrants in our community feel comfortable talking to local law enforcement by ensuring that local law enforcement officers are not also agents of federal immigration authorities. The bill would prohibit law enforcement and court personnel from asking questions about immigration status. This is important. Immigrants are part of our community, and are at least as likely as anyone else to be witnesses to or victims of crimes. Putting ourselves in their place, it’s easy to understand why witnesses and victims might not come forward even to report a violent crime if they think that doing so poses a risk to themselves, their friends, or their families. For us all to be safer, law enforcement needs witness and victim testimony. To get it, we need immigrants to feel safe walking into police stations. And we know that right now, immigrants don’t feel safe and are reporting fewer crimes.

This bill is a practical, compassionate step toward building a better Massachusetts and would provide quantifiable benefits: We would avoid the expenses associated with using our local and state resources to do the federal government’s job, we would protect our local agencies and officers from unintentional violations of civil liberties with regard to immigrants, and we would improve the quality of relationships between immigrant communities and local law enforcement by building a statewide framework for trust. More information about the impact of immigration enforcement on local law enforcement can be found in the National Police Foundation’s detailed report Local Police & Immigration Enforcement.

More important to me than even the practical benefits is that passing the Safe Communities Act would serve the broader goal of beginning to address racism in this state overall by sending a powerful message locally and beyond that we in Massachusetts will do everything we can do to ensure that every immigrant in our state knows that they will be treated fairly by all our local and state governments. We have a lot of work to do to address racism in this state more broadly and ensure that all our neighbors are safe. Passing the Safe Communities Act and relieving our immigrant neighbors of one potential worry is a good first step.

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