Massachusetts is now the only state in the union not to have passed a budget for the new fiscal year, which started July 1. And the main reason appears to be the die-hard commitment of a minority of state legislators to doing everything they possibly can for illegal aliens rather than their own constituents.
For more than a year, stand-alone sanctuary legislation euphemistically called the “Safe Communities Act”—Senate Bill (S.) 1305 and House Bill (H.) 3269—didn’t really go anywhere. Despite Massachusetts being a liberal state, the bills were met with fierce resistance by grass-roots activists, with FAIR’s assistance. Statewide leadership mostly wanted to dodge the issue: House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) made it clear that he and most of his fellow House Democrats felt other issues should take priority, while Republican Governor Charlie Baker said repeatedly he thought this should be a local matter for individual cities and towns to decide on their own.
Having failed to pass a sanctuary bill on its own, the open-borders crowd then changed tactics to playing games with the state budget. The House passed a budget bill without any sanctuary provisions on April 26, but on May 23, the Senate passed a sanctuary amendment by Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton) that would forbid state and local law enforcement from asking about anyone’s immigration status, cancel 287(g) agreements by any 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. Governor Baker called the Senate amendment “ridiculous and outrageous,” and promised a line-item veto if it ever reaches his desk.
On June 4, each chamber appointed its Way & Means chair, vice-chair and ranking minority (i.e., Republican) member to a conference committee to work out a final budget agreement. But roughly six weeks later, the conference committee still hasn’t been able to produce anything.
On July 9, Speaker DeLeo proposed passing a budget stripped of all non-financial policy language (so-called “riders” or “outside sections.”) The two chambers’ differences over these provisions are apparently the main holdup in reaching an agreement, and the Senate sanctuary amendment is by far the most prominent of them. The Speaker expressed frustration that “[i]t’s getting later and later. It’s imperative that we do a budget immediately … if we take up the so-called money portion, which is what a budget is all about, take that up now, then we can always go back in the final weeks of session and talk about some of the policy matters as well.”
Undeterred by the Speaker’s comments, illegal-alien supporters responded on July 10 with yet another theatrically outraged Beacon Hill rally to demand (even more of) a sanctuary state. Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) even seemed to be taking their side when she said she “personally feel[s]once we get started and get some movement I think we can probably get through more than just the revenue piece.”
Budget negotiations remain in limbo, and Eldridge’s sanctuary amendment is obviously the most glaring sticking point. DeLeo stated again on July 12 that he believed it would be “very difficult” to pass on the House floor and thus could put the entire budget in jeopardy. Yet the 54-member House Progressive Caucus has apparently written privately to the budget conference committee insisting that it be kept in.
Hundreds of dangerous criminal aliens already owe their freedom to Massachusetts’ current sanctuary policies, yet these politicians want even more? Most Massachusetts voters and officials of all political stripes almost certainly don’t want everything else in the Commonwealth to be sacrificed on this one issue, but a vocal minority has ground the process to a total halt. The citizens of the Bay State need to tell their legislators to stop playing games and pass a budget for them, not for illegal aliens.